How Lucid plans to turn Air into substance

by admin December 18, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Lucid Motors’ Peter Rawlinson introduces the Air all-electric luxury sedan.

FREMONT, Calif. — Lucid Motors managed a tough task in developing a production-ready version of its Air electric luxury sedan, unveiled here last week. But an even tougher task awaits: actually building cars it can sell.

Lucid plans to start construction on a $700 million plant in Casa Grande, Ariz., south of Phoenix, in the first quarter of 2017. The company says it will begin production of the Air there in late 2018 and have them in customers’ hands by early 2019.

Brian Barron, Lucid’s director of global manufacturing, admits that’s an aggressive timeline. He spent nearly 20 years working in manufacturing at BMW, including at the company’s Spartanburg, S.C., plant. It’s the skills he gleaned from that experience that have him — and Lucid — confident about meeting their 2019 delivery date.

On the staffing side, Barron’s team has already jump-started the process. They’re working with community colleges near the Casa Grande site to train, certify and then hire workers for the factory so they’re ready as soon as the building is ready.

“When BMW came to South Carolina, there was no automotive [industry] there,” Barron recalled. “It was mostly textiles, so I learned a lot in 20 years as we ramped that plant up. That’s why I’m trying to front-load it with the training of the work force right now.”

Casa Grande has historically been a mining and farming town, but its location near major freight rail routes and interstate highways that connect to West Coast ports and Mexico make it attractive for industrial investments.

To keep down the size, cost and construction time of the factory, Lucid will rent nearby warehouse space to build the Air’s subassemblies, and truck them to the main site. Lucid is also exploring having a third party handle some assembly inside its plant. And 60 percent of the Air’s parts have already been sourced from suppliers.

“We’re trying to find as many ways as we can to be responsible with the dollars we’ve got,” Barron told Automotive News.

Barron’s team initially considered using a contract manufacturer to speed up the timeline, but couldn’t promise the kind of volume that they were looking for, Barron said.

Now Lucid has barely two years to turn a bare patch of dirt in the desert to a factory rolling out the first buyer-ready models of the Air. The first 255 units, a limited-run “launch edition,” will cost about $165,000.

“We feel the timing for us right now is spot on,” Barron said. “We’ve got to get out there as quick as we can to establish our brand.”

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