Lucid Motors steps up exercise to succeed in the market

LOS ANGELES — Lucid Motors is laying the retail and manufacturing groundwork for the launch of its battery-electric Air sedan in the coming months after years of delays, bringing the California startup’s goal of taking on Tesla and Mercedes-Benz a big step closer to reality.

Last week, Lucid announced the end of its preproduction phase at its new Arizona manufacturing plant and said it will move into “quality validation builds” that will pave the way to begin producing for commercial sale.

At the same time, Lucid opened its eighth company-owned showroom, in New York City’s Meatpacking District. Lucid is marketing the Air as a high-performance luxury sedan with up to 500 miles of range and ultra-fast charging capabilities.

“Opening a Lucid Studio in New York, one of the most vibrant cities in the world, allows us to demonstrate how Lucid Air and its groundbreaking technology perfectly complement the fast pace and refined taste of the Big Apple,” CEO Peter Rawlinson said in a news release.

Under New York law, the Lucid showroom is not allowed to sell vehicles; it will serve as an immersive experience into the luxury brand. Unlike Tesla, Lucid will market a variety of customizations of the Air, with multitone interiors based on California-themed colors and materials.

While Lucid offers a virtual-reality experience online to shoppers nationwide, it also is rolling out physical studios in key U.S. and Canadian cities. Coming locations include Chicago, Boston, Vancouver and metro Washington, D.C. By year’s end, Lucid expects to have 20 studio and service locations, the company said.

The electric vehicle startup also is developing a crossover for the end of 2023 called the Gravity. Lucid said last week that it has more than 10,000 reservations for the four versions of the Air coming this year and next year. The reservations are not guaranteed sales but include a $1,000 refundable deposit.

Lucid also has pre-sold a limited 500-vehicle run of a high-end edition of the Air, called the Dream Edition. It was priced at $169,000, not including shipping or the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs. The least expensive version of the nameplate, called the Air Pure, starts at $77,400, not including shipping or the federal tax credit.

Lucid is accelerating the timeline for its plant in Casa Grande, Ariz., near Phoenix. The automaker said last week that it is pulling forward about $350 million of investment funds earmarked for later phases of construction. As a result, Lucid is combining two coming phases into one, which will increase production capacity for the Air and create a dedicated assembly line for the Gravity.

The stepped-up plan is made possible by Lucid’s pending merger with Churchill Capital Corp. IV, a special purpose acquisition company. That arrangement, which will take Lucid public, is expected to close in the third quarter, Lucid said.

Lucid reiterated its expectation that existing cash from the merger will fund its planned operations through at least 2022. By then, it expects to be generating significant cash through vehicle sales. It anticipates producing about 53,000 vehicles a year by 2023.

“The company is choosing to accelerate plant capacity expansions and to build a dedicated Lucid Gravity general assembly line, which is expected to lead to higher Lucid Air sales volumes in 2023 while remaining within the second-half 2023 Lucid Gravity launch window,” Rawlinson said.

In a show of support for Lucid’s accelerated manufacturing plan, Churchill Capital Corp. stock rose on the automaker’s news last week.