As you may have already read, earlier this week Volvo’s Chinese parent Geely announced its first, stand-alone Polestar model. Polestar is Volvo’s new electric performance car brand, committed to battery-power only for all future models beyond the new, all-carbon fibre 1 coupe.
Polestar’s radical all-electric approach will be matched by an equally radical method of selling its cars. The new 1 coupe, along with all future Polestar models, will be available on a subscription-only basis, with the car’s ‘owner’ never actually owning the vehicle.
This subscription-only method differs from the PCP schemes that are now the most popular method of acquiring a new car, where the driver has the option to buy the car at the end of the PCP contract, swap the car for a new model, or simply hand the car back and walk away. The Polestar 1 will be acquired via zero-deposit deal over two or three years, with everything incorporated into one monthly payment. This will include pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to swap cars for alternatives – taking a larger Volvo XC90, for example, for the family holiday trips to the Dordogne.
Polestar models will be serviced at selected Volvo dealers, although their drivers won’t need to visit the workshop, as all issues will be dealt with online. There will be no Polestar dealers – and no Polestar cars in the corner of a Volvo showroom – but there will be Polestar retail ‘spaces’. This comes just days after Porsche announced the trial of a similar monthly subscription package, initially being tested out in Atlanta, Georgia. Dubbed Porsche Passport, this scheme will grant fans of the Stuttgart marque unlimited access to a wide fleet of Porsche vehicles for a set fee.
Polestar’s pioneering global monthly subscription initiative is the latest in a long line of alternative new car buying options, stretching back decades. Here are a handful of some of our favourite alternatives…
The multi-million-pound hypercars you can't take home
When Ferrari introduced its track-use-only Enzo-based FXX in 2005, 29 pre-selected customers paid 1.5 million Euros for the privilege of owning the car, on the strict understanding that it would be stored and maintained by the Ferrari factory in Maranello and couldn’t be driven home by its lucky owner. Rather, the 29 FXX buyers had to pre-arrange a time and date with Maranello to come and drive their own car. This scheme obviously worked, as Ferrari did the same when it later introduced the circuit-only 599XX and FXX K models.
Hyundai click to buy
Hyundai is the first manufacturer in the UK market to introduce a ‘click and buy’ purchase scheme, as heavily advertised currently on TV. Hyundai claims its recent Click to Buy initiative is a quick and easy way to buy or lease a new Hyundai model from the comfort of your own home, without having to visit the local franchised dealership. Would-be new Hyundai buyers can get and compare quotes, configure their car, apply for finance and pay a deposit, all online.
Limited edition for Gold Card customers only
Flicking through a hefty mail order catalogue to order your new car might seem like an odd idea, but for more than a century this was perfectly possible, especially in the USA.
The well-known American retail store and retail catalogue specialist, Sears, began selling cars in 1908, with the Sears Motor Buggy in 1908, built for the mail order company by the Lincoln Motor Works. Post-war, Sears returned to new car retailing in 1952 with its Allstate, a bespoke branded version of Kaiser’s compact Henry J model, sold exclusively via the pages of the Sears mail-order catalogue. Deterred by the poor sales of the Allstate, it took Sears almost 25 years to return to the mail order new car market with the unusual Sears XDN-1, a modified all-electric version of the stylish late-1970s Fiat 128 3P coupe!
Going one better than Sears was American Express. As part of a promotion in 1980, a very special DeLorean DMC-12 was featured on the cover of the American Express Christmas catalogue. Offered exclusively to wealthy American Express Gold Card members was a limited edition of no more than 100 DeLoreans, each one to be electroplated in pure 24-karat gold, and offered at an astonishing $85,000 each (a $60,000 price hike over a standard DMC-12!). Just two 24-karat gold DeLoreans were sold through this promotion!
Words by Gary Axon