Lucid must parlay early wins into lasting success

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Lucid Motors is enjoying a wild ride to the top tier of the EV pack. The quick pace of events is like a quarter-mile blast in the automaker’s 1,111-hp Lucid Air Dream Edition.

Since late October, Lucid delivered its first Air sedans to paying customers, matched Ford Motor Co. in market value and received a slew of industry accolades for its debut model.

But the California startup now faces growing pains as it takes on market leader Tesla, along with Rivian and the entire legacy auto industry. For now, Lucid has just a single product: an executive sedan with a six-figure price tag and limited production capacity.

“We have had a great deal of activity recently, and we’ve been very excited by some of the awards coming our way,” Zak Edson, Lucid’s senior director of sales and service, told Automotive News. Among them: MotorTrend’s 2022 Car of the Year award.

“We’ve been particularly excited being able to deliver cars to customers for the first time,” Edson said. “Demand is in great shape, so a lot of what we’re doing is executing our plan and ensuring that cars are coming out in sufficient volumes and quality to satisfy that demand.”

Lucid said that reservations for the Air have surpassed 17,000, although none of those represent guaranteed sales. The company will finish production of the limited-run $169,000 Dream Edition, followed by the $139,000 Grand Touring. Next year, it will add the $95,000 Touring and the $77,400 Pure variants. Prices are before shipping and tax credits.

The automaker has focused mostly on the U.S. market with its retail studios, which support its direct-to-consumer model. But it also opened its first international location in Vancouver and is moving into Europe, the Middle East and China over the next two years, Lucid said.

While the Pure variant will bring the Air into more accessible luxury territory, current reservations represent a healthy mix of trims, Edson said. “We see strong demand for the Grand Touring. It’s definitely not a case where everyone is coming in at the low end.”

Lucid’s recent stock performance — after debuting on the Nasdaq in July — has led to intense speculation on freewheeling financial websites like Seeking Alpha. It’s either the next Tesla, better than Tesla, or easy prey for legacy automakers and their coming product blitz.

While Lucid got a big splash in November headlines thanks to its stock run and media accolades, interest is likely to move on quickly to Rivian’s coming SUV, the GMC Hummer, Cadillac Lyriq and a slew of EVs from Mercedes, Audi, Genesis and other luxury brands.

“Lucid is under immense pressure to be the next Tesla, but a company like Tesla doesn’t come along often, and turning marketing buzz into sales success is going to be an uphill battle,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.

“Lucid will not only be competing against Tesla — which dominates over 60 percent of the EV market — but also established mainstream automakers with deep pockets and a lot to lose,” Caldwell said.

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said last month that the company has a big advantage over competitors thanks to its proprietary EV technology. The Lucid Air is the first EV to achieve more than 500 miles of EPA range and features ultrafast charging that leads the industry.

“Make no mistake, this is a technology play and this is a technology race,” Rawlinson said on Lucid’s third-quarter earnings call.

That technology will be on full display when Lucid’s Gravity SUV goes into production in late 2023 at its new factory in Casa Grande, Ariz. The company is using some of its $4.8 billion cash on hand to accelerate phase two of its plant expansion for both the Air and Gravity.

The plant’s capacity, Lucid said, will be 34,000 vehicles a year in its current phase, and 90,000 when phase two is complete in 2023. Eventually, that will expand to 365,000 annually, Rawlinson said. There are also plans for factories in the Middle East and China.

Lucid is not yet talking about products beyond the Gravity, but Rawlinson has been hinting heavily at a more mainstream luxury vehicle that leverages Lucid’s focus on efficiency.

Since Lucid’s Air Grand Touring achieves 516 miles of range from a 112 kilowatt-hour battery pack, a smaller vehicle could still have comfortable range with far fewer cells, he suggested.

“It’s easy to imagine a smaller pack and the weight and cost savings afforded by it, which would allow for a much more affordable EV that could still achieve 300-plus or 400-plus miles of range,” Rawlinson said on the earnings call.

That was essentially the Tesla blueprint with the Model 3 compact sedan in 2017 and the Model Y crossover in 2020. Those models now dominate the global EV industry.

But while Tesla was early to market, Lucid could be late.

“Lucid will need to develop a higher-volume, more affordable vehicle,” Caldwell said.

“Even Tesla faced scrutiny until it had real commercial success with the Model 3. Lucid will likely face a similar challenge, but with the added difficulty of trying to stand out in a noisy, crowded space.”

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