Don't Expect a Tesla Model 3 Rival From Lucid Motors Soon

Lucid Motors

While car company executives will tell you they’re focused on their own electric projects while simultaneously keeping one eye on the competition, they’re less likely to admit that the efforts of Tesla — especially around the Model 3 — are their prime target.

It’s a little easier to admit that fact, though, when your chief technology officer is the former chief engineer on the Tesla Model S. Peter Rawlinson, speaking with Inverse on Wednesday at the New York Auto Show, says that his current company, Lucid Motors, is “laser-focused” on one-upping the Tesla Model S with its Lucid Air. The car — which starts at $52,500 after a $7,500 federal tax credit — is expected to begin production at a to-be-built factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, in summer 2019. Rawlinson says the company’s currently in a Series D funding round to pay for the assembly plant.

The intense hype over Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3, the economical, stripped-down sedan that starts at $35,000, will be sated in July, Musk said Thursday.

Rawlinson told reporters that we might see an SUV from Lucid Motors, which sees its competition in BMW and Mercedes-Benz, “a couple of years” after the launch of its Air sedan. If you’re doing the math, that might be around 2021 or later.

Buyers intrigued by Lucid, but without $100,000 for a decked-out version, shouldn’t expect a lighter version of the Air — Lucid Hydrogen? Methane? Neon’s already been taken — any time soon, though. While Lucid wants to rival the Tesla Model S, it doesn’t seem to have formal plans for a competitor to the Tesla Model 3.

“I think sometime in the future we’d love to do that,” Rawlinson said Thursday of a Lucid rival for the Model 3. “We believe that to grow the company we need to do that, but we are under no illusions as to the enormity of the task, and right now, we’ve got laser-focus on our first product.”

Lucid Motors's CTO and former Tesla Model S chief engineer Peter Rawlinson.

Jack Crosbie

The next few months to a year will be crucial for Lucid as it prepares work on its assembly plant, for which it’s purchased the land and secured green air permits. It hasn’t started moving dirt as it needs to finish a fund-raising round (“It would be irresponsible,” Rawlinson says). As for battery production, don’t expect a smaller version of the Tesla gigafactory, either. Lucid’s got battery partnerships with Samsung SDI, LG Chemical, and Sony.

“This isn’t another Tesla Model S,” he said of the Air, noting that the luxury sedan is the “foundation to the house.” Once that’s built and solid, “then you can do all sorts of interesting things as a company.”

Maybe one of those interesting things will be an affordable Lucid.