Lucid Motors CEO aims to launch Tesla Model 3 rival in 2024 or 2025

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Lucid Motors Chief Executive Officer Peter Rawlinson told Reuters on Tuesday that the luxury electric car maker plans to launch a rival to Tesla Inc’s Model 3 in 2024 or 2025.

FILE PHOTO: Peter Rawlinson, current CEO of Lucid Motors speaks during the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York City, U.S., May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The company led by the former Tesla engineer is following the same strategy as Tesla, starting with a luxury car to create a halo around the brand and then expand into the mass market.

This week it announced plans to go public by merging with a blank check company, a move that indicated a market capitalization of $56 billion -- before regular production of Lucid Motors’ first model has begun.

Scaling up production of a mass automobile is a major financial challenge, Rawlinson said.

“I can’t wait to do that,” he told Reuters, referring to the rival to Tesla’s Model 3, it’s least expensive sedan. But first Rawlinson said he would for now focus on the luxury, bigger car, which paradoxically takes fewer resources.

“To make a smaller car requires more capital, because you need a bigger factory and more automation,” he said.

Experts say it may be too late for Lucid to launch the affordable model as legacy makers like Volkswagen, Hyundai Motor and Ford are already introducing affordable models to challenge Tesla.

“There is a question mark over whether there will be a market left for Lucid after four to five years,” Mel Yu, an automotive industry analyst, said.

Lucid Motors’ first electric car, the luxury Air, won’t go in production now until late 2021, later than the spring 2021 launch initially planned.

Rawlinson said that the carmaker expects production of a less expensive, sub-$70,000 version of the luxury sedan in 2022, followed by a sport utility vehicle code-named Project Gravity in 2023. He said he is interested in developing pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, but they are several years away and might be built with partners.

“The world needs $25,000 cars urgently. Lucid can’t do it for another eight years realistically,” he said, adding that even Tesla has not launched such a model yet.

He also said six well-known automakers have reached out to him over the last month and expressed interest in Lucid Motors’ technology. Cooperating with another company could lead to making a $25,000 car in the next three to four years, he added.

He also said it is too early for the company to make its own battery cells for now, adding that it has contracts with suppliers LG Chem and Samsung SDI.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Peter Henderson in San Francisco and Joshua Franklin in Miami; editing by Aurora Ellis and Richard Pullin