A Jolt for Electric-Car Rivalry: Lucid Motors Gets $1B to Build Arizona Plant

Lucid Motors announced on Monday that it was receiving $1 billion in investment funds from Saudi Arabia to build its electric-car plant in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Lucid Motors has signed a $1 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, the company announced Monday, allowing it to take on rival Tesla with a massive, new electric-car plant in Casa Grande.

Governor Doug Ducey revealed two years ago that the Silicon Valley company planned to turn Arizona into the epicenter of electric-car production, saying it would create about 2,000 jobs in the state. Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich joined him in the 2016 press event, touting the deal that included Mexican plants supplying the Lucid facility with parts.

The plan stalled as Lucid struggled to find an investor, raising doubts it would ever happen. Under the new deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Lucid intends to launch its first luxury car to the public in 2020.

"By investing in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market, PIF is gaining exposure to long-term growth opportunities, supporting innovation and technological development, and driving revenue and sectoral diversification for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," an unnamed spokesperson for the PIF said in Lucid's statement.

Lucid intends to produce two versions of its electric vehicle: an expensive luxury car and a very expensive luxury car. The company has bragged about going head-to-head with Tesla in a niche market, with a goal of making four-door sedans that are attractive on the outside and opulent on the inside, and can accelerate like Formula One race cars.

Monday's announcement was also the latest sign that the high-tech world has discovered Pinal County, a place traditionally known for prisons, mines, and a place to get a cold drink on the drive between Phoenix and Tucson. Last week, Nikola Corporation of Arizona said it would build a million-square-foot semi-truck manufacturing plant in Coolidge.

The Lucid plant in Casa Grande was previously estimated to cost $700 million. The infusion of Saudi cash will allow Lucid to move forward on the planned purchase of about 500 acres at the corner of Thornton and Peters roads for the plant. In July, the Casa Grande Dispatch newspaper reported that Casa Grande has obtained $500,000 from the Arizona Commerce Authority Economic Strength Grant to improve the roads around the planned facility.

"This is a huge impact for us," said Tim Kanavel, Pinal County's economic development manager, said of the Lucid deal with Saudi Arabia. "This goes way beyond Casa Grande or Pinal County," he said, and will benefit all of Arizona.

Beside the direct impacts, development of the Lucid plant fits into the county's goal of keeping residents working within county borders. Casa Grande, a growing city and the county's largest with a population of 450,000, is expected to hit 500,000 within a couple years, Kanavel said. Yet its industrial base hasn't kept up with the population. Every day, about 90,000 people drive from Casa Grande and other parts of Pinal County to the Phoenix area for work. The county hopes to "retain" more residents by landing more companies like Lucid, he said.

As Pavlovich said in 2016, the project will benefit Mexico, too, feeding on the concept of an economic "mega-region" with Arizona.

None of this means the average worker will be able to afford a Lucid car, though. The high-end vehicle is expected to cost more than $100,000, Kanavel said.