Lucid Motors today announced completion of the first phase of construction at its AMP-1 (Advanced Manufacturing Plant) factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, and confirmed the start of production for the Lucid Air is on track for the Spring of 2021.
Production will initially consist of Lucid Air Dream Editions, followed by Grand Touring and Touring models, and then the Air Pure in early 2022.
“We broke ground on the 590-acre Lucid AMP-1 site in Casa Grande, Arizona, on December 2, 2019, and slightly less than a year later we have completed the first purpose-built EV factory in North America,” said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO, Lucid Motors.
While Tesla moves quickly with construction of its new factory in Austin, Texas, Lucid Motors likes to tout that its Casa Grande factory will be the first “greenfield, dedicated electric vehicle factory to be built in North America.” Lucid designed the factory to be “future ready” to allow for additional phases of expansion at the site. The next phase is expected to begin in early 2021, which will enable future production of the brand’s first SUV under the name Project Gravity in 2023.
By my count, the Lucid Casa Grande factory will be one of 15 factories producing electric (BEV and PHEV) passenger vehicles in North America in the next few years. And by the end of 2021, there will be 6 US factories that produce only BEVs (not including commercial trucks): Lucid Motors (Casa Grande), Tesla (Fremont, Austin), GM (Orion, Hamtramck), and Rivian (Normal).
As part of the factory’s commissioning, which tests Lucid’s production processes and equipment, the company has already built its full beta prototype test fleet and is now transitioning to the construction of a final series of production-representative versions of the Lucid Air. Back in August, I got a tour of Lucid’s Newark, California, headquarters and saw nearly 50 beta prototypes of the Air in various stages of assembly. The company has now reached more than 100 beta prototypes.
While these prototypes were fully built in the Newark facility and have been used for testing and validation, a few months ago the production of beta vehicles was transitioned to a pilot line at the Casa Grande factory. The main line at Casa Grande will soon be spun up to start building production-representative cars, which will precede start of production for customer cars in Spring of 2021. According to Lucid, its manufacturing system uses advanced processes such as an “aircraft-inspired riveted and bonded monocoque body structure replacing spot welds.”
Lucid is targeting an initial capacity of up to 30,000 units annually, starting in the Spring of 2021 for North America but eventually aiming to supply global markets. The initial production volume will be for customer-ordered cars. When I met with Lucid executives during the global reveal of the Air, however, they reiterated that ensuring they produce the highest quality vehicles out of the gate was more important than meeting any production targets. Derek Jenkins, VP of Design, made it clear to me that quality was the company’s top goal and they would focus on getting things right before ramping up production in an attempt to reach any stated volume targets.
“As we add new platforms and vehicles to our lineup, the planning that went into this facility ensures that we will always be able to keep up with growing customer demand for advanced electric vehicles.” — Peter Hochholdinger, VP of Manufacturing, Lucid Motors
In response to my question about future years, however, a company spokesperson told me that “capacity in 2022 will definitely be higher, at least double and possibly up to triple based on demand.”
Most of the existing auto assembly factories in the US are located in the Midwest and Southeast, so why did Lucid Motors choose Arizona? The company shared that the Casa Grande site was chosen because of existing infrastructure, talent pool, geographic location, and a pre-existing automotive supply chain. It also offered space for a large footprint and planned expansions. This includes a water-based paint shop designed to be future-proof, with the necessary footprint and specialized infrastructure, so it can be expanded to meet the needs of all future phases of the factory itself.
As part of a $700 million investment, construction is planned in four phases through 2028, with the square footage of the factory increasing to 5.1 million square feet from its current 999,000 square feet.
For the first phase, the factory will include manufacturing, assembly, storage, and central utility and employ around 750 workers. For phase two and beyond, the company will expand construction as higher sales volumes dictate, with a manufacturing capacity up to 400,000 units per year.
By comparison, after 10 years and two factories, Tesla is on pace to produce roughly 500,000 vehicles in 2020 — so I expect it to be many years before Lucid, a luxury-performance automaker, sees that level of global demand. In fact, at the price point of the various versions of the Lucid Air and planned SUV, we are likely looking at global demand of around 150,000 vehicles by 2025.
So, to reach the potential volume the Casa Grande factory is capable of portends 2–3 additional vehicles, likely midsized SUVs and CUVs in the $40,000 to $50,000 price range. Additionally, when I interviewed CEO Peter Rawlinson back in August, he suggested that the company would be open to producing powertrains for other automakers. Ultimately, I anticipate that will be a big part of Lucid’s business, as engineering and contract manufacturing through its Atieva arm is a strong part of the company’s DNA.