By Dylan Campbell
Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Imagine popping down to your local shopping centre to get some bread, and returning with a brand new car.
That is the vision of brands like Tesla, Subaru, Hyundai Genesis and now Polestar – the Chinese-owned all-electric spin-off of Volvo.
The traditional dealership is out, and increasingly the shopping centre-based new-car store is in.
In December last year, Polestar’s first Australian retail store opened deep within the sprawling Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s south-east, walking distance from Tesla’s showroom.
Of 100 Polestar retail stores globally, its Melbourne store quickly became one of the electric vehicle brand’s most visited.
Nearby you’ll find retail outlets like T2, Sushi Sushi and Myer. You can now buy a shirt, some green tea, spicy tuna sushi and a brand-new car, all in the space of about 20m.
The shopping centre experience
At some point, Polestar may open a location in an Adelaide shopping centre. If it’s like the Melbourne location, it will be like wandering into an Apple store, but with cars. Brightly lit, yet minimal and almost bare, the focus is on the trio of 2s – the only Polestar model you can currently buy in Australia.
A table, nestled between the cars, has various interior materials available for you to feel, including Polestar’s WeaveTech cloth – a wetsuit-type fabric. Polestar says it’s vegan, but we wouldn’t recommend eating it.
Once you’ve been wooed, you can test-drive a Polestar from the shopping centre car park and, after purchase, even take delivery of your new EV – along with the week’s groceries.
Other car manufacturers
Of course, the concept of selling cars like any other consumer good in a shopping centre isn’t new. BMW and MINI have experimented with parking their latest models in shopping centres.
Tesla has had a retail presence at Melbourne’s Chadstone since 2014 and Hyundai’s luxury Genesis brand is in on the act. Meanwhile, Subaru has been experimenting with the idea since 2016. The attraction for car makers is exposure and significantly more foot traffic than a traditional dealership, for a fraction of the cost. Tesla and Polestar allow you to configure, order and pay for your vehicle online, then pick it up at the shops. It’s click-and-collect for cars.
In addition to its retail store at Werribee Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s west, Subaru has fitted a small servicing department in the car park. You can get your Subaru serviced and do the weekly shop at the same time.
Overseas, Porsche, Lotus and Chinese-owned brands MG, Nio and Xpeng have also opened successful retail stores. Could the traditional dealership’s days could be numbered? The shift occurs as new agency models from Honda and Mercedes-Benz threaten the conventional dealership further. The car manufacturers let you buy the car direct from the manufacturer and the dealer merely facilitates the sale.
Polestar in Adelaide
Until Adelaide gets its own Polestar retail store, South Aussies interested in the all-electric upstart have been treated to a Polestar test-drive roadshow. This includes the one that occupied Adelaide Oval for two weeks in late February.
“We did more than 230 test drives,” Polestar Australia’s Laurissa Mirabelli said. Polestar hopes to repeat the concept in Adelaide later this year (Polestars are currently serviced at Solitaire in Parkside).
In addition to its 2 model, Polestar plans to add a large 3 SUV, a smaller SUV, a four-door power-packed 5 sedan, and a convertible 6 in the coming years. All these models will be electric.
We suspect the shopping centre stores will need a bit of extra room by that point.