The US startup Lucid Motors is still alive, kicking, and ready to crack the electric vehicle code in Norway (screenshot courtesy of Lucid Motors).

Luxury Electric Vehicle Cage Match: Lucid vs. Tesla vs. Everyone Else

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Lucid Motors has been trying to leapfrog over Tesla for a foothold in the luxury electric car market, and the going has been tough. Nevertheless, with the backing of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and other investors, the startup has been taking its best shot. That includes opening new retail studios at fashionable shopping destinations, apparently with the aim of catching more eyeballs among the high rollers.

Lucid Motors electric vehicle
The US startup Lucid Motors is still alive, kicking, and ready to crack the electric vehicle code in Norway. (Screenshot courtesy of Lucid Motors.)

The Other Luxury Electric Vehicle From California

California-based Lucid Motors gets sky-high marks on performance from CleanTechnica and other auto industry observers (see our complete coverage here), but the company has been excruciatingly slow to push its electric vehicles into the market after launching in 2007. A loan from the US Department of Energy would have helped, but another California startup you may have heard of — Tesla Motors — beat Lucid to the punch, receiving $465 million in funding from the agency’s Loan Programs Office in 2010.

Ford and Nissan are among the other automakers to benefit from a torrent of public financing through the Loan Programs Office, which is tasked with accelerating the electric vehicle transition, among other cleantech goals. Unfortunately for Lucid and other electric vehicle stakeholders, the office was all but shuttered after former President Trump took office in 2017.

Not to worry. Lucid Motors made up the difference, and then some, with an equity offering last year that raised $1.5 billion. “Lucid raised the majority of that cash via a private sale of nearly 86 million shares to an affiliate of its largest investor, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund,” reported CNBC on December 19.

The equity offering was a logical followup to Lucid’s announcement of February 28 last year, in which the company described plans for building its first EV factory outside of its existing US factory in Arizona. The new factory is to be located in the King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia.

If all goes according to plan, the new factory will send 150,000 vehicles per year into the global marketplace.

That’s quite a step up for Lucid, which issued production guidance in December anticipating just 6,000 to 7,000 electric vehicles per year from its Arizona factory.

Lucid Just Can’t Quit The Electric Vehicle Market

Other electric vehicle startups have had a rocky start but have lived to see another day (so far). Nikola is one that comes to mind. Lightyear has also been on a roller coaster ride of late.

Lucid has the advantage of a solid backer in the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which launched in 1971 and currently ranks as the sixth biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world. If you’re wondering why an oil-rich nation is eager to see another electric vehicle startup succeed, that’s a good question. As with other funds of its type, the PIF is an economic development tool aimed at diversification. Financial sustainability is the aim, whether or not it sets the hair on fire among the “anti-woke” Republican office holders in the US.

What Lucid doesn’t have is the name recognition of Tesla, or the economies of scale the Californian company has now achieved. The company is also competing with established legacy automakers that are transitioning their luxury car know-how to satisfy high-end electric vehicle buyers.

With that in mind, let’s see what the company has been up to since the success of its equity offering last December.

One key piece of the public profile puzzle fell into place on January 25, when Lucid drew attention to its motorsports electric drive unit.

“For Lucid, the transfer of technology between motorsports and road cars is a two-way symbiosis. This new motorsports drive unit builds directly upon the groundbreaking powertrain technology developed in-house by Lucid and proven on the road in every Lucid Air,” explained Lucid Group CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson in a press statement.

The 469 horsepower unit weighs just 70.5 pounds, featuring the same “state-of-the-art high-voltage continuous wave winding and proprietary microjet cooling system that can be found in the motors powering the Lucid Air sports sedan,” the company enthused.

According to Lucid, its motorsports drive unit has already been tapped for standard use in an electric vehicle racing circuit. The company didn’t name names, but my money is on the Formula E EV racing circuit. Lucid could also be in contention for the NASCAR circuit, which has expressed an interest in setting up an electric-drive stock car series someday. If you have any other guesses, drop a note in the comment thread.

Lucid Aims At The Impulse Shopper

Lucid has also been angling to attract car shoppers by setting up retail studios in upscale shopping districts. After all, if you’re going to spend tens of thousands of USD on jewelry, furs, and handbags, why not toss a luxury electric vehicle into the shopping cart.

“Lucid Studios allow customers to experience the brand and obtain information about its products in locations that underscore the company’s unique design aesthetic,” the company explains. “Visitors who explore Lucid Studio will get a vision of how the company draws inspiration from the beauty, innovation, and diversity of its home state of California.”

Lucid is closing in on 40 studio locations, including the Al Nakheel Mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Legacy West in Plano, Texas; and Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany.

The latest addition to the roster is a new studio on Karl Johans gate in Oslo, Norway, which opened on March 4. That’s quite a daring step. A considerable number of electric vehicle buyers in Norway have already put their trust in other automakers.

The Norwegian Road Federation ran the numbers for 2022 and came up with 138,265 new 100% electric vehicles registered in the country, representing almost 80% of new auto sales. (We also publish monthly reports on the Norwegian auto and EV market here.)

Among the top 10 automakers representing in Norway, Tesla was the frontrunner with 12.2% market share. The EV startup Polestar also made a good showing. The only other automakers to crack the top 10 were legacy brands with decades of name recognition under their belts: Volkswagen, Skoda, BMW, Volvo, Hyundai, Audi, and Ford.

Lucid could raise its profile in Norway and elsewhere by hooking up with a legacy firm, and that could happen if the latest buzz is actual news and not just rumor.

Last month, Georg Kachar of Car and Driver noted that Aston Martin appears to be winding down its relationship with AMG, the performance unit of Mercedes-Benz, as part of its transition from internal combustion technology to an all-electric lineup.

Kachar gave Aston Martin high marks for assembling a crack team of electric vehicle talent, but he observed that a strategic partner is the missing link. Lucid and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund could fit the bill, with Lucid standing to gain more visibility from an alliance with 134 existing Aston Martin dealers.

What do you think, could this happen? Apparently, Geely is also Lucid-curious, so stay tuned for more on that.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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