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Polestar: modern car design “always shouting at you”

Subtle, less shouty design is a key focus for the ‘startup’ EV company, boss tells TG

Published: 05 Jul 2022
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A key tenet of Polestar’s philosophy is design, the prism through which everything else about the driving experience is filtered. Not aero, not horsepower, not even handling, even though the future cars promise all of those things.

No, for Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath – himself a former Volvo and Volkswagen Group designer – it’s subtle, low-key design.

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“It’s been, and still is, a phase where there’s an amazing overemphasis of expressiveness,” he tells TG when asked whether future design should be less aggressive, less… shouty. “Just producing visually loud objects, which I think is incredible thinking.

“You walk through a street where lots of cars are parked, and all of them are shouting at you. It’s a very arrogant attitude, to actually molest the people with these expressions. You feel like, ‘come on, have a certain decency'. Some class would be appropriate.

“Generally the Scandinavian style is more along those lines. As much as sustainability questions become much more relevant, different generations actually are asking more and more for that. It’s definitely something that is changing. What was hip yesterday might suddenly look very old.”

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He tells TG that Polestar’s design-led philosophy works very well in Europe and the US, and has taken off in South Korea, too. “Design is a big thing that works worldwide, that’s for sure. The quality about how the car drives, that of course is a more European and US thing. In Asia it’s not necessarily that much of a topic that makes you a star there,” he adds.

Indeed, talking about the themes that influenced him as a young car enthusiast, there’s the implicit understanding that it’s design that transcends generations, not power and handling. “In that period when I was a boy, it was rich with great BMWs and Italian cars. I had the cards that you play [Top Trumps], and these cars were accelerating from 0-60mph in seven seconds or so and at the time I thought, ‘wow that’s fast’. What is it today? Nothing anymore.

“But those cars were lightweight, and they had these amazing A-pillars. That’s what I really loved seeing. It’s really the day-to-day designs that were on the street then. I’m not so much into the supercar thing. I always have my imaginary collection of bread-and-butter cars. That would things like the Renault R4, the VW Beetle and bus, the Citroen GS.

“Today I admire any brand that puts a big effort in good design and cherishes what it means. In the UK, the Range Rover and new Defender, for example, those are amazing product designs. What Laurens [van der Acker] is doing at Renault, and Derek [Jenkins] at Lucid.

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