(I apologise up front, this is very long, but its cheaper than therapy!)
We are experienced EV owners, having owned an early Nissan Leaf, A Hyundai Ioniq electric, a Vauxhall Ampera (which we still have), Hybrids, a Tesla Model 3 Performance….. and now a Polestar 2. We are early adopters, and know and understand the pitfalls and problems that come with that ideology. We believe in the concept of EV’s and the benefits they bring to the driving experience and also the potential ‘green’ advantages.
Our experiences of the Tesla M3 sales, marketing and support had already put us on our guard, and the reported poor build quality of the 3 and total lack of local service and support were a concern. We could see Polestar following the Tesla sales and marketing model to the letter, and now on through the delivery and ownership experience, to the point that they repeated the same very obvious errors. Clearly they failed to learn from the mistakes of Tesla, with misinformation around delivery dates, unexplained delays in delivery, and missing functionality. This has not improved in the UK.
We took delivery of our P2 on 9 September. Our handover was little more than ‘here’s the key’s’, this is the boot, this is the frunk, off you go. Not a good start. Obviously we had watched the online video reviews and ‘how to’ guides, looked at the manual, and gleaned as much information as we could. We are far from EV newbies, and knew that our knowledge and history would be relevant to the P2 too. We were pleased with the build quality and looks of the car. Initial impressions were extremely positive, and the P2 has the look and feel of a well designed, well spec’ed, and well build proper (EV) car.
We drove the car, and the EV experience was there is bucketfuls. A ‘grown up’ EV. We were, and are, slightly disappointed about the economy, or should I say efficiency, and have achieved just over 3 miles per kWh. This is to be expected in a large heavy car, but will inevitably decrease in the colder weather. As we charge at home for 99% of the time, and will not be using public charging, that is not too much of an issue as we will still be paying around 4p per mile for ‘fuel’.
Around the time we took delivery rumours started to circulate that some software listed in the P2 spec was not installed, and updates that were going to be available late 2020 were being delayed until Christmas and as far out as mid 2021. For a car to be launched in multiple countries with software being so significantly delayed raises further concerns. A price paid by early adopters, some might say, and that would be reasonable if the delayed functionality were merely ‘nice to haves’. Sadly, some of the missing features are much more fundamental. For example, the car does not have, and for some time will continue not to have ‘over the air’ updates. This means that every software update will necessitate a trip to the local service centre. Examples include the lack of pre-conditioning, timed charging, the promised phone app, to name only a few. These are all established elements of EV ownership offered by other manufacturers, yet Polestar have failed to include them in their launch cars, and now owners are faced with significant delays until they do become available. The reasons for the failure to provide have not been adequately explained or justified by Polestar. Indeed, one of the biggest criticisms of Polestar has to be the total lack of honest and open communication with their customers. Whether that is a sign of contempt for their first customers, or simply bad management, remains unclear. However, with the well established and respected Volvo brand behind them, one would expect Polestar to do better. They are not a new player or start up company caught unawares by their sudden level of success. Several weeks ago Polestar asked its customers and prospects to sign up to receive a newsletter, but since then nothing of note has been forthcoming from Polestar. The silence is deafening.
It is worth noting that the P2 was launched a year ago in the UK, so the car had been in design for probably 2-3 years before that. Now, another year further on, software is still not in place 4+ years from concept, and will not for several more months. Why?
This lack of communication does more to engender doubt and dissatisfaction among both new and potential customers than any honest admission of human failing, ‘we are sorry’ would have been nice, and 'this is what we are doing to fix it' would be even better.
Now that some cars have been delivered in Europe and the UK a number of other issues are surfacing, such as lights being incorrectly configured, cars rumoured to be shutting down for safety reasons, and problems charging. Not entirely unexpected for a new car launch. Some of these issues will require visits to a local service centre, but many could be resolved more easily if the cars had OTA functionality.
We are fortunate in Europe in that we contend with relatively short distances in order to get to a well established Volvo dealership for support. That network may or may not be available in North America, but in any event the distances involved may be far greater. That would be a serious concern for me in my decision making process, as it was with our decision to buy a Tesla with very limited UK support. However, the ability and willingness of Volvo to support the Polestar brand in the UK is in its very early stages of implementation. It seems clear that larger Volvo dealerships have been ‘told’ they will provide support at a very senior level. However from my experiences of using that service, they are neither familiar with the product, nor fully trained.
Which leads me on to my specific ownership story:
As I said we took delivery on 9 September. From day one we had problems getting the software working properly; experiencing problems with inability to connect to WiFi, voice commands, charging, sat nav, phone connectivity and use, radio and media. In addition we had a few problems including lose rear windows, water seeming to collect in the tailgate, condensation in the headlights. We assumed the majority would be fixed by software updates, and some of the other ‘Volvo’ issues could be assessed and fixed by the dealership.
I accept that some of the problems we have encountered may be ‘user error’, we’re not perfect, but we do know EV’s. However the lack of any meaningful user manual (in the true meaning of the word), Getting Started guides or videos, or indeed any technical support customers can actually speak to; meant that if we are at fault for some issues, we have been unable to overcome them. I do not however believe that our problems are of our making.
We contacted Polestar with our concerns and on 22 September sent a summary of the problems, who suggested we speak to the local Volvo dealership. They in turn said they were unable to help and referred us back to Polestar. Polestar then ‘spoke’ to the dealership who then booked the car in for the earliest date they had available – the 7 October. In that same email we also gave a notice of intention to reject the car, as we were just within the 2 week period. Polestar extended that option window to 30 days, which gave us until 9 October (significant).
In the run up to 7 October we reset the car several times and spent a lot of time trying, without success, to get the car working properly. In that time we had various error messages appear in the car, including the dreaded “propulsion system service required’ message.
The dealership duly collected the car on the 7th, left us with a loan car for the day, with a view to performing 2 recalls for software updates and check/adjust the headlights which was another recall. They contacted us late on the 7th to say they needed the car overnight. On the 8th they returned the car at 7pm saying they had done “what they can”. They also said that it was lucky because a revision to one of the updates came through on the morning of the 8th which they had applied. In conversation they told me that this was the first Polestar they had seen and therefore the car attracted great interest among both sales and service staff. They also said that they had had some training pre-covid (March) but that this was a learning curve for them.
At this point I should say that the Volvo dealership clearly did their best, their communication was good, and I was happy with the outcome. They have sent a report to Polestar of what they found, which includes videos. I have asked for a copy, but sadly nothing has been provided to me, not even a job sheet.
On the morning of the 9th, I tried the car. My intention was to go through the set up from scratch, create my profile, link my key and phone, set up my accounts, and go for a drive! Up until this point we have driven the car for about 7 hours, and spent about 70 hours trying to get it working!
The car would not make an internet connection; it will not connect to my WiFi. I cannot set up a profile. It will drive, but obviously there are no maps or sat nav, and the ‘hey Google’ and voice button do not work at all. In a nutshell, it is worse now than when it was sent to the dealership.
I again described the problems and asserted my right to reject in emails to Polestar, which only resulted yet again in standard waffle straight out of the customer placation chapter of the sales support manual. The last one suggesting “the best thing for this would indeed to bring the car back to the service centre for them to re-assess why this issue has not been resolved, and have this further work completed.” [sic].
My last email to them asking “Please advise by return - what specifically do Polestar intend to do to resolve this, and when??” has received no response.
At no time have Polestar been proactive, offered any assurances, felt my pain – or even acknowledged it - in any meaningful way. Early adopters take a gamble, we all know that, but people who put their faith (and money) in a new product need a degree of comfort when things go wrong. If I, and maybe a hundred other people, all reject our cars it will not make a scrap of difference to the Polestar balance sheet, which at the end of the is all that they worry about.
So how do we feel about Polestar and the P2? Very Disappointed. I do not believe our expectations were, or are, unreasonable. I am paying nearly £50,000 for something that does not perform as it should or as Polestar told me it would. They have not supported me to get issues resolved or made me feel a valued customer. They have let me down. The P2 is a lovely car, it could be a great car, and we love driving it. But now we also hate everything else about it.
But do we want to reject it? No, we want it to work, but Polestar are pushing us to the point where we may have to walk away,
So, what now? Drop it off at the Dealership with the keys and walk away? Given them another opportunity to put it right and see what materialises? Wait for the next thing to go wrong?
Quite simply, I don’t know, the step step depends on Polestar. Maybe that’s part II….