The Six Five On the Road at CES with Luminar and Dennis Nobelius, COO of Polestar

By Patrick Moorhead - January 9, 2023

The Six Five “On The Road” at CES 2023. Patrick Moorhead & Daniel Newman sit down with Dennis Nobelius, COO of Polestar. Their conversation covers:

  • Polestar’s partnership with Luminar Technologies
  • Debut of the Polestar 3 with Smart Eye’s Driving Monitoring System
  • Polestar’s plan to launch one new car every year
  • The company’s priorities for 2023

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead and we are here live at the Luminar booth at CES 2023. The Six Five is on the Road. We are live and it’s great to be here. Daniel, how are you my friend?

Daniel Newman: Man, this is a lot better than a year ago. I love what we’re seeing here at CES 2023. Very excited. The automotive spot by the way, near and dear to my heart. And we’ve got some great guests here that we’re going to be talking to right here in the Luminar booth, which by the way is having a great show already.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, exactly. And I have to tell you, I’ve been to all the halls so far in the West Hall. It dominates. You come in here and like you said, we are here last year and there were some empty spaces in the booth. I see no empty spaces in the booths. It took me 35 minutes to get here. I think we are back, but hey, let’s dive in and introduce our guests. Dennis, how are you?

Dennis Nobelius: Hey, and thank you for having me here. I’m super apart from my voice. I’ve been talking too much and the air conditioning is terrible, but fantastic to be here back in at CES. And as I say, CES becomes the new auto show that is also quite clear. So I think that is very dominant. Also sitting next to the cars here.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it is incredible the amount of intelligence plus style, automation, all these amazing things come together. Oh by the way, electrification as well. Let me throw that in there as an adder. As tech analysts 10 years ago we didn’t even cover the automotive space, but we are now because it’s just so exciting and transformative. So maybe a good place to start, I know you’re a rockstar in the auto industry. We have a pretty wide audience. Tell us what you do for Polestar.

Dennis Nobelius: Yeah, so at Polestar here we’re the second [inaudible 00:01:51] EV globally. That’s what we would like to see. So we are totally focused on electric cars and we spun off from Volvo cars in the beginning and now we’re an independent company. We are launching one car every year now moving forward. Very exciting times.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think I found myself getting into the queue. I want that Polestar 5, I saw that thing yesterday, my heart flooded and I’m a gearhead so anybody out there that knows me knows I like the toys. So you may be seeing me driving around Austin, Texas in one of those. Maybe you can help me get on that list.

Dennis Nobelius: So welcome. I would personally prefer the Roadster with the Cavalier, that would be even cooler as an EV.

Patrick Moorhead: I was kind of thinking more as the analyst demo unit program, so.

Daniel Newman: It never hurts to ask. That’s work for laptops, phones and all kinds of other things. I’m not sure about cars though. So Dennis, give us a start out. We’re here beginning of 2023. Clearly the automotive space is where the energy is at here at CES. But what are you predicting? What are you seeing ahead in automotive in this next year?

Dennis Nobelius: Yeah, that’s a good question. Electrification of course and the rapid development of infrastructure is very important. But the good part is that there is no debate regarding the future of automotive. It is electric and it’s coming from all brands. So now it’s not enough to be electric. Now you need to be a really good quality performance oriented car and that’s where you need to be attractive. And that’s what I think the competition will look into right now.

Patrick Moorhead: So from a priority basis, you are the chief operating officer. So most everything stops with you in getting it done. So what are your priorities for 2023?

Dennis Nobelius: That’s a good question. So we, in the last 18 months, went from 10 markets to 27. That is one feature. We went from 29,000 cars in 2021 to more than 50,000 last year we have produced more than a hundred thousand cars. So we geared up and we scaled the company last year. This year it’s about execution, to get the execution done and to be prepared for having multiple cars in our showrooms. That’s what we see right now Polestar 3 and Polestar 4.

Daniel Newman: The process of ramp is a really challenging one, Dennis, it’s not easy to get from 25 to 50 to a hundred thousand. There’s a certain EV maker that there’s a lot of coverage in the business press about all the stress of growing. But at the same time, with all the demand you have, like I said, I’ve asked around about getting my hands on a car, it’s like, “Hey, maybe we could help you get on a list.” It’s like that’s because people want what you’re building and that’s really exciting. But of course you got to find that, you got to meet that demand. You got to keep building and building and building. By the way they need more semiconductors because that’s pretty important too, right, Dennis?

Dennis Nobelius: Yeah, yeah, totally right. But what you see is a strong amount from customer. I think that’s where it starts. But we also decided to bring all the customer service and customer care in-house because we really appreciate the direct dialogue with the customers. We think that that is really important to get the feedback, what do they experience of the car, what do they experience and expect from a premium brand? And that’s what we really enjoy to have that dialogue going.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s very exciting. So tell us all this is your moment. What are you announcing here at CES 2023?

Dennis Nobelius: First off, just 50 meters from here, we have the new Polestar 3, first time on American soil. So I think that is the main message. The second message is that we have a small technology nugget that we are showcasing and that is the artificial intelligence provided by Smart Eye. So two driver monitoring cameras that we then can showcase how you check the driver’s state and act upon that in the car, so that we’re doing. And then today we also release that we are together with Google delivering HD, high definition, maps to the cars. And on top of that we’re also providing that you can through the phone start the climate system in the Polestar 2 through the Google system. So finally you see this integration with the phone and the car that many has been talking about. We can showcase that now.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s funny, I think for years, I would say maybe 10 years ago when people first started talking about the melding of technology, really big technology with automotive, you saw a lot of eye rolls. That’s for the young people or that’s for… But we clearly are in a different place right now and I think your timing is perfect, right? And it really is that delicate balance of the best technology, of course EV, but safety is paramount. And I know you spent a few years at Volvo as well, but at Polestar safety is also very important. And here we are in the Luminar booth. So can you talk a little bit about the partnership that you have with them? What are you doing with them?

Dennis Nobelius: No, it’s good. And we believe in a collaborative effort. We’re always teaming up with the best. And when it comes to LiDARs, that’s what we are doing together with Luminar. So we identified Luminar as the best partner for us years ago. Now that industrialization is coming into play. So we will in quite short period of time open up the Polestar 3, so you can order that with a LiDAR on top and what that brings to the car and the safety is paramount. You get the distance, you get the active lasers and the light emitted from the car. And that is really important for us. And it’s not only improving the safety but also bringing the convenience and comfort. So we are about to launch the unsupervised driving, the autonomous driving in California actually by the end of next year available for customers. And that is enabled by Luminar.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m finding it difficult to imagine how people do, let’s call it an 8s2+ and above without LiDAR. So I don’t know if you want to call it courage or foresight or intelligence to use this is impressive. And also there were so many naysayers that said, “Hey, costs can’t come down. It’s going to be ugly, it’s going to look like a big police siren or an ambulance siren forever.” But the way you’ve integrated on your cars is really nice. You know it’s there but it’s classy and it’s clean and that is not easy is it?

Dennis Nobelius: No, that is really… It’s a new component that you bring into the car and in a rather visible state you need to place it high up so you can get this distance. But we believe that together with Luminar, we are making that happen. And we’re also convinced that you need the cameras, radars and LiDAR to be able to reach the redundancy and to be able to operate unsupervised.

Daniel Newman: The commonality between you guys, what Austin said yesterday on this stage about a million lives, the technology is there and it’s becoming increasingly affordable and you start to even wonder about the social responsibility of companies to utilize technology that you know can save lives right now. And I think that’s going to start to accelerate it. I know capitalism wins, but if you can spend a little bit and save a lot of lives, it’s kind of like doing these things in the process. The map thing, I said offline, we’re just going to build an autonomy and safety neural network for the world by having vehicles that are just out there on the road doing what they’re doing every day. So every Polestar that’s out there that’s providing data back with these civil maps is going to create a much safer driving experience plus the LiDAR you’re putting in your cars.

Dennis Nobelius: No, totally. I one hundred percent agree with you to get that data feedback look from the car and improve the neural networks. That is what you need on the longer term and we are taking that decision to go with Luminar strongly.

Daniel Newman: So with that, what is Polestar perspective on the future of autonomy?

Dennis Nobelius: We have focused, we have left other companies focus on the robo taxi. We think that other companies can do that better. So what we focus on is where a private driver can get the most use of it. And for us, that is on a highway, when you are commuting to work. So kind of boring driving when you probably would like to do something else like reading or preparing for the next meeting or just relaxing. That’s what we are focusing on. So that’s also why we are focusing on the LiDAR. Because you need these 250 meters of distance so you can actually utilize a bit higher speed driving. Yes, you do on the highway. So that’s what we have been focusing on and tailoring the entire sensor set on the car towards that.

Patrick Moorhead: So essentially is this L3, would you characterize this as level three or level four?

Dennis Nobelius: We probably avoid the different levels, but level four probably, so unsupervised where we are actually responsible for driving the car and not the owner or the driver.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s exciting and I can’t help but to think about the societal changes that this will enable. One of the reasons you want in your next generation car, it’s got to look great inside because it becomes an extension of your living room, of your office where you’re consuming entertainment, you’re communicating, you have a steering wall in front of you, but it time shifts, and I can’t help but to think what are we going to do with all this time that that drivers had? And are we going to live further outside of our cities to be able to enable this? Because driving is not necessarily a chore anymore. It’s a lot safer.

Dennis Nobelius: Yeah. No, you’re them. This is changing the society, this technology that we now bring forward is changing society where its users live, how the cities is actually built. All that is changing with this technology and that is so cool to be part of that.

Daniel Newman: It looks a little bit like you add this with urban air mobility and all of a sudden we find all new parts of the world that people can live in and participate. You add in what we’re doing with collaboration and of course we still need people in the factories, but even autonomy there will make more vehicles built with less hands over time. And we’re seeing it all happen. But again, getting it safe, making it a luxurious and exciting experience for people. Because there is that affinity that people have for their vehicles and that is, I think, the biggest conflict towards really autonomy is that people still love to drive and people still have a love affair with their cars. And you guys are building cars that are really exciting and congratulations on that, Dennis.

Dennis Nobelius: Thank you. Thank you very much. And also just one more note when you also relaxing in the car or shorting in the car. We also released recently that the gaming will now be part of the display in the car. So Nvidia has released a cloud computing or cloud gaming platform also through the Polestar 2s. So we appreciate that.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, no, Google in the car and video in the car. I said we’re tech analysts and we just got dragged into this automotive stuff. But you got semis, you got so much going on. Dennis, congrats on a great CES 2023. Excited to see these Polestars on the road with Luminar technology inside of them.

Dennis Nobelius: Thank you very much. I appreciate the dialogue.

Daniel Newman: All right, everyone tuning in here at CES 2023. I’m Daniel Newman here with Patrick Moorhead for The Six Five on the Road. There’ll be more conversations, so hit that subscribe button, watch all the shows here on the floor and all our other interviews that we do year round with some of the most exciting tech executives in the world. For this one, got to go, see you all later. Bye-bye now.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.