If you talk to any automaker executive, they will, without any effort, tell you that the proposition they are offering is unique to the market, usually because it has some feature the competition lacks. Lucid is no different in this respect. I just fear that it might have a slightly harder argument to make.
This is not because I think the Lucid Air — deliveries planned to begin later this year — is a bad car. Quite the opposite. The Lucid Air, which I rode in Monday afternoon in a short ride around Manhattan, seems to be a good car. (It was also a good car when we rode in one all the way back in 2017.) Its acceleration, like many EVs, is violent and quick, to the point that any quicker would probably be uncomfortable.
Inside, there is a shocking amount of space, especially in the back seat, making me think it could be a good car for luxury taxi fleets, or a good car for markets in which rich people still don’t drive themselves. Also: The screens are admirably restrained. The infotainment is based on Android, which is the world’s most popular mobile OS, which makes me think that it’ll be both functional and good.
The range — not yet EPA-estimated, though Lucid says in similar tests it gets around 500 miles — is impressive, and is long enough that the Lucid Air would probably be just fine on a road trip with some planning. The car looks good. (It looked good in 2016, too, when we first saw this design.) The car has a big trunk and a big frunk, and it’s likely that for many thousands of miles the only thing you have to replace are the windshield wipers and wiper fluid. Depending on how you drive, the regenerative braking system could render the traditional braking system redundant.
Another thing to know is that Lucid is serious about this. The car’s design was in-house (Lucid started out in 2007 as a battery company called Atieva made up of ex-Tesla employees) and so are its motors and its battery packs, but not the battery cells themselves. Lucid seems to have done the right mix of outsourcing the things it will probably be bad at making — tires, battery cells, infotainment software, etc. — and insourcing the things they are likely to excel at, like the design of the car itself (it’s very aerodynamic) and the motors.
Now, whether mass production is also a thing Lucid excels at is still very much to be seen, as there are only around 130 Lucid Airs in existence at this very moment. Lucid also doesn’t seem too stressed about the situation. By all appearances, it has plenty of runway. Lucid’s studio — not a dealership, which is a dirty word to Lucid people — in Manhattan is in the Meatpacking District, a part of town where the rent isn’t cheap. Likewise, one of Lucid’s other studios is in Beverly Hills. The company seemingly has money to burn.
Lucid also says it doesn’t want car buyers to come through its studios, necessarily; it merely wants people who are curious about the brand, such is the confidence Lucid has in its product. Lucids will be built-to-order, which might take a month or two or three. That’s how you buy a car in Europe, a superior system to here in the States where most people just buy off the lot, compromises and all.
If Tesla is the fun, unpredictable uncle in your family, then, Lucid is the sensible, classy one. I like Lucid quite a bit, in other words, and wish it well, but now I must point out a few worries, namely that:
- America’s charging network is garbage outside of the state of California. Meanwhile, Lucid is planning a big push in a lot of states that are not California, which makes me question its sanity.
- The Lucid Air is an executive car in an SUV and crossover world.
- The Lucid Air is expensive, starting at $77,400, or $69,900 after the government’s $7,500 tax credit. That’s not really too expensive for what it aspires to be.
- State franchise laws that protect the existence of dealerships pose a threat to Lucid’s direct sales model and while Tesla has been able to get by with exemptions it’s unclear if Lucid can too.
Lucid also insists that it offers a unique product and maybe it does. I don’t know how to think like someone who is in the market comparing why they will spend nearly six-figures on one car over another. Is the Air better than a Tesla Model 3 Performance? I mean, yes. Is this car better than a Model S? Probably yes as well. Is this car better than a Model S Plaid? Probably not.
I’m not sure, though, that there is a hypothetical person out there asking those questions. The people who buy Teslas seem very sure that what they want is a Tesla. We also don’t know what a person who buys a Lucid looks like, mainly because it hasn’t sold a single car, and because the number of interested Lucid buyers is low. The company says it has around 10,000 reservations.
I say “low,” but for the electric luxury sedan market 10,000 is quite a healthy number. I also think I know who Lucid wants its customers to be, in any case. That is someone with money who is not already obsessed with the cult of Tesla and Mercedes and BMW and Porsche and Lexus and Volvo; this someone is probably car agnostic, too, and open to being convinced on the merits.
There are probably enough of these people out there to keep Lucid a going concern, too, for the medium-term, at least. The company doesn’t seem to want to play the volume game, and, in the time I was in the passenger seat of the Lucid Air, people on the sidewalk stood up to take notice, some snapping pictures. That doesn’t happen with every “nice” car, usually only the good ones. At a stoplight, some guy who was driving a Model 3 did it, too.