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Polestar speeds plans to make more cars outside China as EU-China tensions rise

New York International Auto Show Press Preview

BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese-backed Swedish electric vehicle (EV) maker Polestar Automotive is accelerating efforts to produce more vehicles outside China in view of rising geopolitical tensions, its CEO said.

Asked how Polestar is preparing for the possibility a European probe into Chinese-made EVs might lead to increased tariffs, Thomas Ingenlath said the automaker was exploring the idea of speeding up exporting the Polestar 3 made in South Carolina to the European Union.

He said last year that the South Carolina plant, which started making Polestar cars this year, would supply both U.S. and European markets. Currently, Polestar builds the majority of its cars in the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Taizhou and it is also planning to build a facility in South Korea.

It was founded by Sweden's Volvo Cars and China's Geely but Volvo has handed most of its stake to shareholders including Geely after saying in February it would stop funding the venture.

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Volvo Cars is majority-owned by Geely.

Export efforts by Chinese EV makers have come under scrutiny in recent months in Europe and the U.S., which accuse China of exporting overcapacity.

The European Commission in October began investigating whether cheaper, Chinese-made EVs benefit unfairly from state subsidies. China has called the investigation protectionist.

Ingenlath, in an interview late on Tuesday, said this made production cost calculations "complex".

"We actually are in limbo there because we of course don't know where the investigation is going," he said.

Polestar is therefore preparing as much as possible, Ingenlath said.

"The direction to go to a global footprint and manufacturing is something we have accelerated."

Analysts have said the automaker's shareholding shake-up illustrates increasing difficulties for EV startups as sales growth slows and financial losses deepen.

Geely and a private investment firm owned by Geely founder Eric Li now own a combined 69% of Polestar, while Volvo Cars' stake is 18% from an initial 49%.

Ingenlath said he did not anticipate the shareholding change to affect the automaker's day-to-day operation.

Polestar delivered 54,600 cars globally in 2024 and has set a goal to deliver 155,000 to 165,000 cars in 2025. It posted a 40% drop in first-quarter deliveries but expects deliveries of its luxury Polestar 3 and 4 SUVs to accelerate this year.

Ingenlath said the automaker aspires to a sales breakdown of 40% in Europe, 30% in the United States and 30% in the Asia-Pacific region.

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Mark Potter)