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Lucid Motors Breaks Ground on Ariz. Plant, Signals Production in Late 2020

Date: December 3, 2019
Source: Automotive News

Lucid Motors broke ground on its new electric vehicle plant in Casa Grande, Ariz., on Monday — the facility at which the company says it will start production on its electric sedan late next year.

The Newark, Calif., electric carmaker says it will begin production on its debut model, the Air sedan, in Arizona in December 2020. The vehicle is slated to have a 400-mile range, according to Lucid, and will cost more than $100,000. The Casa Grande site — halfway between Phoenix and Tucson — was selected out of 60 possible sites for manufacturing.

The company plans to manufacture 15,000 vehicles during its first full year of production in 2021.

"We believe that first of all, we need to get the quality spot on. So we'll have a very slow, very considered build up," Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson told Automotive News. "It's not like turning the faucets on. This is not going to be binary. So we'll go through a curve of production volume."

Sales and marketing

In addition to Lucid ramping up for production and working on the factory, Rawlinson said it is also building up its sales and marketing stores to showcase the "very best, next-generation electric car" as a luxury brand manufactured entirely in the U.S.

Rawlinson, former chief engineer of Tesla's Model S, was named Lucid's CEO in April after being chief technology officer.

"[Customers are] driving race-proven electric vehicle technology," Rawlinson said of the Air sedan, noting Lucid's battery technology has been used for all 24 vehicles in the fifth Formula E race series.

"We're able to apply that learning from racing back into our Lucid Air car."

Lucid Motors was founded in 2007 as Atieva by Sam Weng and Bernard Tse, a former vice president of Tesla, and has a more than $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

In addition to Rawlinson and Tse's work at Tesla, Lucid Motors in July also hired Peter Hochholdinger, Tesla Inc.'s former head of production at its Fremont, Calif., factory, as vice president of manufacturing.

Still, Rawlinson previously said that the company positions itself as being less of a competitor to Tesla than with luxury carmakers such as Audi or BMW.

The investment in the plant is happening in three phases, the first of which is approximately $240 million, according to Lucid. The factory is expected to generate 4,800 jobs over the next decade. Rawlinson said the company received state government incentives as a result of selecting Arizona for the site.

Product pipeline

As 2020 approaches, however, traditional automakers and other electric vehicle entrants have been getting more ambitious regarding their EV product pipelines, with more than 100 expected over the next three to five years.

"We believe we've got the best electric powertrain in the world, because that's what differentiates us. We are an electric powertrain technology company, not just the battery," Rawlinson said.

"We've developed our own motor technology, which we believe is absolutely world class. We don't believe anyone else has got the advanced motor technology or power electronics inverter technology [that we do]."

Rawlinson said that previous reports of Lucid's talks with automakers about potentially sharing its EV technology and plans to go public in a few years were still part of discussions about the company's business strategy, but that it needs to be "laser-focused" on getting the Air to market first.

"We have these world-class powertrains, which I think is scalable for volume and performance. And I think that does suit applications for other automakers," Rawlinson said.

Truck interest?

Commenting on the recent Cybertruck unveiling by his former employer, Tesla, Rawlinson said a truck might not be far from his areas of interest.

"I'd love Lucid to do a truck, and with our powertrain, we could take that to another level because, you know, everyone talks about range," Rawlinson said. "Let's not talk about range. Let's talk about efficiency. The smart range that's making a car, having incredible range with the smallest possible battery pack. It's not about the pack. It's about how you use the energy in it."

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