But mass producing automobiles is a challenge of a different magnitude. Initial versions of the Air cost almost $35,000 more than a top-of-the-line Tesla Model S Plaid. To be profitable, Lucid must appeal to more than just a superwealthy elite.
“Lucid’s biggest risks are getting to scale and capacity,” said Daniel Ives, a senior analyst at Wedbush Securities who follows the electric car industry. “The first phase has been significantly successful. Now it’s about the next level of adoption.”
Lucid plans to offer a version of the Air next year that will cost $70,000 after a federal tax credit, and produce 500,000 cars a year by 2030, with a lineup that will include a sport utility vehicle and a pickup. The company had burned through $4.2 billion by June, and its prospectus noted that it might be years away from making money.
To avoid the problems that plagued Tesla in its early days, when for a while it was assembling cars in tents, Mr. Rawlinson is relying on people like Eric Bach, Lucid’s chief engineer. Mr. Bach, another Tesla refugee, has worked at Volkswagen and takes a very German approach to manufacturing. He can expound at length on the art of achieving narrow body gaps, the spaces between sheet metal that to engineers are a measure of quality.
“We’re not intending to put any tents up,” Mr. Bach said, except perhaps “to have a party.”
At the same time, the market is increasingly crowded. Automakers like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have invested heavily in electric vehicles.
Mr. Rawlinson has confounded naysayers before. He points out that some people doubted that the Model S would be a success, or said Lucid could not build a car with a range of 500 miles and get it out the factory door this year. “There is a track record here of me making claims which seem unrealistic but are absolutely based on science,” he said.
Success would have an extra bit of sweetness for Mr. Rawlinson, who left Tesla amid rancor with Elon Musk, the company’s mercurial chief executive.