Polestar announced last week that it's launching its own referral program to incentivize owners to promote the brand's EVs to others.

A customer referral program was wildly popular for Tesla, but times have changed, and you won't find anything so lucrative as the $1,000 incentives and free cars for top referrers that Tesla at one point offered.

Launching in the United States, Europe, and South Korea, the program does allow both referring customers and those they refer to earn rewards, based on referral codes within customer accounts.

Existing customers can generate one of these codes in their account, which can then be linked to a new customer's account when a vehicle order is placed. Upon purchase, new customers in Europe and South Korea will receive charging credits. U.S. customers will receive a Google Bundle including a Nest Hub and Nest Mini devices.

2023 Polestar 2

2023 Polestar 2

The referring customers will be eligible for those rewards as well, along with a Houdini Power Houdi jacket and a unique sketch from one of Polestar's designers, depending on their "reward tier," per Polestar.

This marks the return of an idea that served Tesla well in its earlier days.

As we reported back in 2016—before the Model 3—Tesla's referral program really worked in gaining market momentum with early adopters. It brought buyers that $1,000 discount if referred, plus a $1,000 credit for the referrer. And Tesla has typically invited its top referral performers to its events, and in some cases given them the first—or the first chance to buy—new models.

2023 Polestar 2

2023 Polestar 2

However, it also created issues with some states—like Virginia. Just as Tesla came under fire from franchised dealerships for its direct-sales business model, the company also got in trouble for the referral program because it violated a Virginia law prohibiting compensation to people not licensed to sell cars.

In addition to potential regulatory hurdles, the EV market is very different today than it was five years ago. While EVs are still just a drop in the bucket of the U.S. new-car market, the concept has gained more mainstream acceptance. Even Tesla ended its referral program in 2021, except for its solar roof for homes.

Polestar is also a bit different with its retail strategy, as it piggybacks to some degree on parent Volvo's existing service network but with its own direct-to-consumer retail.