Polestar Seats: Virtue Signaling Now Standard

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

In service of promoting its own sustainability goals, Polestar has opted to offer seating with small print that details the carbon footprint of your chosen upholstery. Though it doesn’t actually matter whether you’ve selected wool, Nappa leather, or faux-leather vinyl (which Polestar calls MicoTech) because the company appears to have labels ready for every option. It’s commercialized virtue signaling at its finest and will become commonplace on every model it sells, starting with the 2024 Polestar 3 SUV. 

According to Car and Driver, the manufacturer believes the labels will improve transparency about its climate impact and better inform customers about the alleged greenness of the brand. However, this was already standard practice for Polestar, which has been putting “sustainability labels" on its products for a few years. What’s different here is that some of the text is now emblazoned on the headrest and far more difficult for people entering the vehicle to miss. But, like so much corporate environmentalism, the whole thing seems rather hollow.

Details on the headrest labeling are pretty basic. Based on the promotional materials coming from the manufacturer, the text simply identifies which materials are being used (with an animal-welfare notice being added to any tags identifying genuine leather), followed by how much carbon per kilogram is produced, and then a label denoting that it’s been 100 percent traced – whatever that means to Polestar. 

While we’ve been told those labels will be subject to change, they don’t offer more than the most basic levels of information in their current format. Though the company said that it doesn’t even know the carbon footprint of any materials other than Nappa leather at present. Details about the other types of upholstery will be added once production commences, with Polestar promising to include the source of the materials used in the manufacturing process as well as what percentage is recycled or renewable. 

Honestly, it would be nice to see a manufacturer seriously commit itself to end-to-end traceability with an easy way for customers to track the production history of each individual component that goes into the car. Something like that would certainly solidify any brand’s commitment to transparency and eliminate any doubt consumers might have about companies being all talk and no walk. This would also help deflect accusations that the whole industry has been relying on forced labor for years. But feel-good labels are a lot easier to manage and don’t require a manufacturer to share information about its entire supply chain with the world. 

We’re not accusing the Volvo subsidiary of being less green than its rivals, just acknowledging that the term doesn’t typically mean much when it comes directly from the industry. Automakers have collectively been trying to cultivate a friendlier image for themselves since 2015. That’s when the dam broke and there was a deluge of corporate messaging about automakers shifting their focus toward promoting sustainability, equity, and environmentalism – with only the faintest hint of what those terms actually meant in terms of how the business would be managed. 

Our guess is that Polestar standardized virtue signaling will be a big hit with the kind of people that believe giving thousands of dollars to the right company will effectively nullify any environmental guilt they hold in their hearts. But that also feels like the manufacturer’s core audience, perhaps making the seat labels the perfect marketing tool.

[Images: Polestar]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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6 of 41 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jan 03, 2023

    This is news from the land of Greta. How Polestar is different from Volvo? Why to buy Polestar instead of Subaru or Volvo?

    • See 3 previous
    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Jan 04, 2023

      Or neither, since both are Chinese junk!

  • MK MK on Jan 04, 2023

    The label(s) looks incredibly tacky and really stick out, not in a good way. I wonder how much money was wasted on these trivial findings that are likely not even accurate, instead of making the actual product better.

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.