Polestar is set to officially announce its long-awaited Canadian plan – likely Tuesday – but the Quebec automotive group that had been chosen to be its first retail partner in North America is no longer part of it.
Groupe Park Avenue, the largest premium dealer body in Quebec, quietly dropped out of the relationship, which was heralded in a media release in October 2019. Norman J. Hebert, vice-president and chief operating officer of Group Park Avenue, told Automotive News Canada the decision to end the relationship after a rigorous eight months was because of COVID-19.
“Overall, we were very excited about the Polestar project and had been actively working with the team to open the first location in North America,” he said in an email. “Many key elements had already been confirmed, but I am not at liberty to divulge them as I am bound to a confidentiality agreement with Polestar.
“In early March, we requested to delay the Polestar Space project beyond the end of 2020 due to the impending COVID pandemic. Polestar was unable to accept the position due to a strict global timeline that they were looking to respect. We understand their position and wish the brand great success as they launch in Montreal.
“We’re disappointed,” Hebert added. “We would have liked to have done the project, we invested a lot of time and energy into, but we work with enough of these (manufacturers) that have a big global timeline and they can’t budge on that.”
Groupe Park Avenue, which the late Norman D. Hebert Sr. started in 1959, is one of the biggest dealer groups in Canada with 22 dealerships, retails 12 brands and has more than 1,000 employees. In 2018 it acquired a Volvo dealership in Brossard that has become the number one volume dealer for the brand in Quebec. Polestar is jointly owned by Volvo Car Group and Geely Holding Group.
Hugues Bissonnette, Polestar’s Canadian Manager, said the timeline for the company has not changed regardless of the novel coronavirus. The plan is still to be in operation in all Canadian markets in the fall of 2020. He said the decision to sever ties with Groupe Park Avenue was made in the spring.
“Groupe Park Avenue’s timeline was impacted by COVID and was not necessarily aligned any more with ours,” Bissonnette said. “It just could not go forward. Park Avenue’s relationship with us is still very good, same with the Volvo side. It just couldn’t align any longer. It’s not a question of our vision suddenly changed. It’s a pure question of timing.”
When Polestar sent out letters of intent to different markets to identify retail partners, Groupe Park Avenue was chosen originally as the first because it was deemed to be a good fit.
“They had a great plan, our vision was aligned from a strategy standpoint, from a location standpoint,” Bissonnette said. “We had a very good relationship on the Volvo side. Groupe Park Avenue is a very progressive group, performing well again on the local brand. Their business plan aligned with our own ambition.”
Polestar heralded the relationship with Groupe Park Avenue in a media release last October.
“I am confident the team will embody the premium, consumer-centric retail experience we are striving for,” Gregor Hembrough, head of Polestar in the Americas, said in the release.
Groupe Park Avenue President and CEO Norman Hebert Jr. said in the announcement his company was “extremely proud to partner with Polestar. We believe after more than 60 years in the business, this addition to our brand portfolio will excite our customers and help accelerate the shift towards electrification.”
The new retail partner will be announced when Polestar publicly reveals its overall Canadian plans.