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Electric-car maker breaks ground in Casa Grande as competition grows

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson shows off the model of the $100,000-plus vehicle Monday that the company plans to build in Casa Grande to Gov. Doug Ducey who attended a formal ceremony to launch what company officials say will be a $700 million plant. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson shows off the model of the $100,000-plus vehicle Monday that the company plans to build in Casa Grande to Gov. Doug Ducey who attended a formal ceremony to launch what company officials say will be a $700 million plant. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Three years ago when Lucid Motors announced it would manufacture electric cars in Arizona they were still relatively rare.

Now it seems like just about everyone is building such a car. Even Ford recently announced it is making an all-electric high-performance model of Mustang.

But Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson told Capitol Media Services on Monday he still believes there is a market for the type of vehicle his company intends to start turning out a year from now at a plant it is building on the outskirts of Casa Grande – even one that will cost more than $100,000.

“I think the key is our technology,” he said. Rawlinson said Lucid intends to make every element of the drive train itself.

“Even Porsche doesn’t make its own electric motors,” he said. “They buy them in.”

Hanging in the balance of the company’s success or failure is a $700 million facility that eventually will employ more than 2,000 people. Company officials have estimated the plant will have a $32 billion revenue impact on Pinal County over the next 20 years.

Still, Rawlinson acknowledged, the key is finding that niche.

“When you look at the electric vehicles that are available today, no one is making a pure luxury electric vehicle,” he said.

And what of Tesla? It has three models, topped off by the Model X which has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $81,000.

“Tesla’s doing a great job,” Rawlinson said. “It’s high tech, it’s disruptive, it’s beautifully engineered.”

What it’s not, he said, is a luxury vehicle.

“Our car is pure luxury, and we’re going after that luxury space which is dominated worldwide by Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW with their luxury offerings,” Rawlinson said. “And none of those is available as an electric vehicle.”

And that, he said, justifies a price tag that will be “typically north of $100,000.”

Rawlinson said he is confident there will be buyers, estimating Lucid can turn out about 15,000 in 2021 in its first full year of operation “and ramp it up progressively from there on.”

“I very much believe in baby steps, making the quality right, making the most beguiling, attractive product,” he said. “And for that, there’s a huge international market.”

He estimates that market at $100 billion a year.

“And that is white space because there’s no electric vehicle in that space,” Rawlinson said.

Lucid’s efforts had been more or less stalled since the high-profile announcement by Gov. Doug Ducey and Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich in 2016 in front of the Arizona State Capitol.

All that changed, however, with the announcement last year by the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund it was putting $1 billion into the company.

Rawlinson said Monday that provides the financing needed to finish the plant and start manufacturing vehicles. But he’s still looking for other cash.

“We have a golden opportunity to accelerate the path of this company with future models before the industry really wakes up and we do see a lot of competitor EVs coming in a few years’ time,” Rawlinson explained.

State and local governments also are contributing to getting the operation started.

The company could qualify for more than $45 million in state incentives, including tax credits, which are tied to milestones like how many people are hired.

Pinal County also purchased 500 acres of land that is being leased and eventually will be sold to Lucid.

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