California-based EV startup Lucid Motors is one of the most anticipated new automakers coming to scene. For those that have relished in the idea of an EV focused future, the brand needs no introduction. Lucid Motors and the Lucid Air look to be one of the few that can challenge Tesla and their new Model S directly upon its release. With the top-tier Lucid Air Dream Edition now officially sold out, we sat down Zak Edson, Senior Director of Retail Operations to talk about how Lucid is doing and where it plans to go.
From the Top Down
Coupled with legacy automakers finally dipping their toes in electrification has been this explosion of new EV brands dominating media interest. There are two schools of thought regarding what an automaker’s first car should be. Should they start with a high-priced luxury car and work their way down or should they start with a relatively affordable car from the get-go?
Lucid Motors of course has opted for the former with their first car, the Lucid Air starting at $77,000 and inching close to $200,000 on the upper end. The company will focus on this luxury sedan before introducing an SUV alongside it. Interestingly are the further out plans of making its way downwards in terms of price with the introduction of mass-produced vehicles. We asked Edson about the benefits of this type of trajectory over an initial start within the affordable vehicle segment.
“… but I’d say the most important reason that we started the luxury side of the scale is because it enables us to build a product that’s truly captivating and, and that has a number of benefits. It, uh, it helps us as a new company in raising our profile, because if you produce something that’s truly desirable, people start talking about it and covering it and getting excited about what you’re doing…”
“…So that’s, that’s important for us as a company, but it’s also important for the electric vehicle movement, because the more that people are talking about EVs as being something desirable, again, rather than feeling like something that’s being forced upon you, or that you…”
The upcoming Lucid Air has certainly piqued the interest of more people than a regular electric sedan possibly ever could. It obviously has been a proven formula with Tesla accumulating initial brand recognition with the Model S and X before moving down to the more affordable and mass-market Model 3 and Y.
Not only is it better from a public recognition point of view, but Edson also spoke on it simply being easier for a new company to gradually scale up.
Who’s Buying a Lucid Air?
The term ‘Tesla-Killer’ has been thrown around throughout the last few years but we wholeheartedly believe, in an EV-focused landscape, the term should lean closer to ICE-Killer. As Tesla sales continue to climb regardless of growing competition, it has been proven that an EV sale is not a stolen Tesla sale, rather a stolen ICE sale. Lucid looks to capitalize on the growing segment versus the competition within.
…So definitely we’re seeing a lot of prior EV buyers, but of course we’re not successful if we don’t convert more people from internal combustion engines. And I don’t just mean business success again, I mean, our mission of inspiring adoption of, sustainable transportation. We have to convert people out of their internal combustion engine vehicles, and based on what we know today of our customers, I think we’re, we’re effectively doing that…
Even with the rapidly grown acceptance, EV sales are still relatively minuscule with a mere 1.8% market share in 2020. There’s a ways to go with more than enough space in the segment.
Direct Sales or Bust
It’s no secret that we consider the traditional dealership model to be one of the more significant hurdles to electric car adoption. We personally have put a spotlight on some misinformation and lack of EV knowledge found in traditional dealerships and recently discussed it once again on our podcast.
Many new EV companies are moving forward with a direct sales approach rather than a dealership model, and Lucid is no exception. Edson remarked on the personal nature of their showrooms (which is something that we experienced first hand) compared to dealerships:
“…there’s a clear advantage to going direct when you’re talking about an EV-only company because we’re, you know, we are having to change people’s mindsets. There’s an important education component to what we’re doing as we’re talking to potential customers. We’re not only trying to, you know, get them to buy a car, we’re educating them. So it becomes a longer lead conversation so that they can get to know Lucid better so that they can understand the benefits of an electric vehicle. So it’s very different than a typical experience where you, you might walk in the door and, and you can just know that their goal is to get you to buy a car right on the spot…”
On Lucid’s Competitive Advantage
Lucid stunned the EV world when they announced that their upcoming Lucid Air would have a range of over 500 miles, topping even the longest-ranged Tesla at the time. Many ‘Tesla Killers’ have been crowned and failed, but the Lucid Air looked to have by far the best chance of beating the Model S which has largely stayed unchallenged for almost a decade at this point.
Speaking with Edson on Lucid’s technological advantages, we were surprised to hear the Lucid considers itself a full generation ahead of the current EV leader:
. ..I think that if I were to speculate, I’d say from a technology standpoint, particularly the EV technology, we’re at least a generation ahead of the current leader in EV technology, which then places us many years ahead of the rest of the players, because so many of the new companies aren’t developing their own technology…
You can’t be the best if you don’t believe you’re the best. Edson says that Lucid likes to show what they do rather than just talk about it, so the automaker must be really confident in their upcoming offerings and unrevealed technology.
More Range or More Chargers?
A popular debate in the EV community is whether more effort should be placed in expanding out charging infrastructure or in increasing EV ranges. We personally have taken to repeating that “range doesn’t matter” (although I won’t be mad at a 517 mile Lucid Air) in regards to this discussion.
If people charge at home and chargers become as numerous as gas stations, then a 300 mile EV will be more than enough for most people. However, range anxiety is still widespread and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future so we won’t be surprised to see automakers continue to push the range boundaries.
When we asked Edson, he echoed the same feelings with range initially being more important before public anxiety wanes and infrastructure builds:
“…So I think range is really important from a perception’s standpoint and over time as a reality, it won’t be quite as important…”
Lucid has opted against building its own charging infrastructure and instead will rely on partnerships with third-party networks like Electrify America. As a company that is building one of the highest ranged EV’s ever seen but no plans for chargers, they clearly have a preference in priority.
With the Lucid Air starting its deliveries in the second half of this year, we don’t have much longer to wait to see if Lucid will make due on all its promises. For more of Zak’s thoughts and other questions we asked, make sure to listen to the full episode of our podcast.