First look: Lucid Motors starts production in Casa Grande with first deliveries expected in October
Lucid Motors kicked off vehicle production in Casa Grande on Tuesday, marking a major production milestone for the first greenfield electric vehicle factory in North America.
The company’s Advanced Manufacturing Plant, or AMP-1, is running, and the first batch of vehicles are projected to be delivered to customers by late October, starting with its top-of-the-line Lucid Air Dream Edition, which costs $169,000.
Lucid Motors (Nasdaq: LCID) is based in Newark, California, but it chose to build its manufacturing facility in Pinal County, about an hour south of Phoenix.
The Lucid Air sedan is the first vehicle the company will produce, available in three different models. Lucid will also build its second vehicle, an SUV called the Gravity, on site in Casa Grande by 2023.
Two weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency said that Lucid’s Air can get 520 miles per charge, beating Tesla’s mark by more than 100 miles. In fact, when considering combinations of the three Lucid Air models and two types of tires available for each car, Lucid vehicles make up the top six highest range EVs in the country, according to the EPA.
AMP-1 spans about 1 million square feet, but on Tuesday Mike Boike, Lucid’s director of manufacturing in Arizona, said the company had already started construction on new factory capacity just south of the existing plant. The new construction will add an additional 2.85 million square feet to the company’s footprint.
Lucid Motors had previously disclosed plans to more than triple the footprint of its Arizona factory following the completion of its merger with a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC) that made Lucid a publicly traded company in July.
Boike also said Lucid Motors is continuing to hire in Pinal County. There are currently about 1,100 employees on site now, but the company plans to increase that figure to 1,500 by the end of the year.
Art Schlaud, Lucid’s director of manufacturing in general assembly, said they get about nine times more applications than they need when looking to fill a single, entry-level associate position, so the company can afford to be choosy and pick the right people to build a strong culture in Casa Grande. Most associate level workers come from Pinal County.
“Our technology will allow for increasingly lighter, more efficient, and less expensive EVs, and today represents a major step in our journey to expand the accessibility of more sustainable transportation,” Lucid Motors CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson said in a statement. “I’m delighted that production cars endowed with this level of efficiency are currently driving off our factory line.”
Lucid’s stock lost $1.35 (5.21%) in Tuesday trading to close at $24.54 amid a down day across Wall Street. The shares had gained more than 6.5% at last check of after-market trading, following the production announcement. Follow the stock here.
Inside the factory
On Tuesday, Lucid Motors opened its factory doors up to VIP reservation holders, local government officials and business representatives. Members of the media were also allowed inside the factory for the first time, but photography was prohibited during the majority of the tour.
As it stands today, the Lucid Air manufacturing process takes place in two buildings, which are connected by an elevated conveyor belt. The first stage in production is the body shop, where the frame of the vehicle is put together.
In the body shop portion of the factory, there are stretches of the floor where it’s difficult to find humans among all the robotics. Some of these robotics are massive, with the strength to whip car doors into the air and bring them to a precision stop millimeters away from where they need to go.
From body, the metal frames are lifted up to the line on the second floor and moved into another building. Next the car is painted, but this portion of the process was closed to visitors because its a clean-room environment.
The final stage is called general assembly, where the robots are smaller but just as plentiful and the humans are more abundant. In this stage more things are done by hand, like “The Marriage” between the car’s frame and chassis with the battery packs that stretch most of the vehicle’s length.
Though there are a considerable number of robots facilitating production (including large flat autonomous ones that move vehicles and play music), Lucid management made a point of emphasizing the employee experience on the floor. The company may be considered a startup, but its team has many decades of combined experience at other automakers.
One thing notably lacking from the factory tour was noise. As robots lifted cars through the air and technicians bolted parts together, the factory was surprisingly quiet considering the type of heavy machinery in operation. The only thing to break the relative tranquility was car horns, which shows the Lucid team really is testing every piece of the car’s equipment.
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