In an industry bristling with opportunity for financial ruin, the long innings of Sweden’s Volvo Cars (founded 1927) stand in proud exception, reminding us that when it comes to survival, size isn’t everything. With sales volumes vastly smaller than the big car companies’, Volvo has consistently managed through the years to offer competitive automobiles while always marching to the beat of its own slightly eccentric, safety-obsessed drum machine.

Polestar 1, a new limited-edition, gas-electric-hybrid coupe, is, if anything, a more radical departure from the mainstream, but that’s as intended. It’s the first of Volvo’s new electric-car line, Polestar, a hand-assembled, low-production experiment of sorts. Meant to launch an ambitious future-forward enterprise with significantly greater sales volume than this appetite-whetter, Polestar owes its existence in the first place to the timely arrival of the electric-car smarts and deep pockets of Volvo’s new Chinese owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd.