Autovista24 journalist Rebeka Shaid considers Lucid’s European market entry, speaking with chief engineer Eric Bach and company representatives during the electric-vehicle (EV) maker’s highly-anticipated launch in Germany.
Lucid Motors has high hopes for the German market. The premium carmaker recently opened its flagship store in Munich, the company’s first European retail branch, and from there it wants to take on the rest of Europe.
Known as a Tesla competitor, Lucid has packed innovation, sustainability, and elegance into its showpiece electric car – the Air. The model has broken records, with Lucid pitching it as the world’s longest range and fastest-charging luxury EV. It has an estimated range of 900km per charge and is arguably the most aerodynamic car in the world. The design is sleek, smooth, and clean, clearly inspired by its homebase in California.
A ’Dream’ car
Eric Bach, Lucid’s chief engineer and senior vice president of product, told Autovista24 that the car has ‘European genes’ despite it being manufactured in the US. So why did Lucid decide to debut the Air in Germany as its first European market?
‘If we succeed in Germany, we can succeed in other countries,’ said Bach, who learned his trade at Volkswagen and once worked at Tesla. Germany is, after all, Europe’s largest automotive market and the Air, Bach added, is perfectly suited for the German autobahn.
The Dream Edition reaches a top speed of 270kph and accelerates from zero to 100kph in under three seconds. The horsepower is impressive and overall, the EV demands a lot of attention, not just because of its high-performance technology and powerful motors. It also comes with a notable price tag.
In Germany, the Air Dream Edition will cost around €218,000 while its entry-level model, the Air Pure, is expected to come in at around €100,000. Lucid announced a price hike in the US earlier this month due to ‘challenges’, with the EV maker citing surging raw-material costs and supply-chain issues. But the models destined for the European market are currently in pre-production and first deliveries will take place later this year.
Building the Lucid brand
Jarno Middelbosch, Lucid’s director of marketing in Europe, told Autovista24 that the company expects ‘selective, low-volume’ reservations in Europe. To put this into perspective – the manufacturer reported a launch of 520 vehicles in North America, so the number of cars being delivered to Europe will be very limited.
Still, the Air is in high demand worldwide. The government of Saudi Arabia plans to buy up to 100,000 vehicles over a 10-year period. Lucid also intends to build its first international manufacturing facility in the country. Europe, as well as China, might offer potential for future production sites, with Middelbosch saying it was something the carmaker was looking at in the long term.
There are more pressing issues the company needs to consider first. These include building the Lucid brand in Europe. Competition among EV makers in the region remains rife, with newcomers from Asia successively dashing into the market. And of course, Lucid is also up against German rivals, which have all raised their game in recent years by diversifying product portfolios with electric cars.
Middelbosch explained that Lucid’s launch in Germany was very intentional. The luxury EV startup is positioning itself among traditional car manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz – the latter of which happens to run a lavish Munich studio only a few doors down from Lucid. German models such as the EQS or the i7 are often likened to the Air, but Lucid is primarily drawing comparison to the world’s most valuable car brand: Tesla.
There is no doubt this has something to do with Lucid’s CEO Peter Rawlinson, who engineered the Tesla Model S before joining Lucid. Bach, too, was a top engineer at Tesla and, while he said Tesla was indeed building some of the best electric cars currently available, he believes Lucid vehicles offer ‘higher performance and more efficiency.’
Efficiency and sustainability
Efficiency is a word that keeps cropping up and seems to define Lucid as a brand. The manufacturer emphasises that the Air was engineered with an obsessive focus on efficiency. This becomes evident when considering the range, miniaturised powertrain, and the car’s extremely aerodynamic shape that lowers drag at high speeds.
Bach, who is clearly passionate about his job, compared a Lucid electric-drive unit to a Tesla equivalent. Lucid’s units are lighter and offer more power, Bach explained, and the motors use far less copper than a Model 3 for instance. This also improves the Air’s environmental credentials as fewer raw materials mean less mining and a lower impact on ecosystems.
Lucid stresses that sustainability is a main theme that runs through every aspect of its activities. The company sources materials that exhibit potential for recyclability while securing those goods from ‘the most responsible suppliers.’ As a luxury carmaker, Lucid offers various leather finishes, but a non-leather option is available to consumers who prefer vegan alternatives.
An immersive retail experience
The California startup prides itself on being a customer-centric brand that wants to provide highly personalised experiences to shoppers. The Munich studio, which officially opened its doors on 13 May, is no exception. The company is eager to build tailored relationships with customers, who can use a digital configurator to create a Lucid Air that matches their tastes.
One highlight is a state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) headset that transports shoppers to the ocean or the desert – in daylight or at night – while virtually stepping into the Air. The VR configurator allows users to get a feel for the car, letting them pick between different colours and interiors, with staff showing the various options available.
Autovista24’s Rebeka Shaid in virtual reality mode at Lucid
Lucid associates told Autovista24 that it was the only carmaker to use this kind of VR configurator in its studios, with plans in place to roll out untethered devices in the future. Stepping out of the virtual world and into the actual car is an inviting experience. As a sedan, the Air feels warm and spacious, with the EV offering plenty of high tech, connectivity, and comfort – getting used to massaging seats should be no problem.
What is next for Lucid?
As with most modern EV makers, Lucid wants to ramp up the level of autonomy. Its DreamDrive system offers more than 30 driver-assistance features, employing up to 32 on-board sensors.
Kayvan Nikjou, Lucid’s PR and communications manager in Europe, told Autovista24 that Lucid was ‘future-proofing’ its EVs in preparation for autonomous driving. There are more than a dozen cameras surrounding the car, making the Air ready for SAE Level 3 – once the necessary legislation has been passed.
So, what is next for Lucid? This year, the company will open more studios and service centres in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland. Once the ball is rolling, Lucid aims to expand into other key markets across Europe.
While the Air is a luxury electric car that only a small customer base can afford, Lucid is planning to build more affordable EVs in the future. In the meantime, a premium SUV, dubbed Gravity, will hit the road in 2024. Until then, Lucid will give its competitors in Europe a lot to think about.
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