Lucid wants a slice of China’s crowded EV market

Lucid wants a slice of China’s crowded EV market

Lucid Motors, the publicly traded electric carmaker, is poised to enter China as it starts hiring in the world’s largest EV market.

The California-based auto company is recruiting a dozen positions in Shanghai, its LinkedIn posts show. The roles range from product management, marketing and sales, public policy, design, supply chain management, to software development. The type of team it’s putting together suggests that Lucid is more likely to import vehicles to China than manufacture locally as Tesla does, at least in the near future.

TechCrunch has reached out to Lucid for details on its China expansion.

The company seems to be in the early stage of its China expansion. It’s looking for a product manager to “capture customer needs in [the] greater China region, glean relevant insights, [and] prioritize features,” for instance. It needs someone to figure out the country’s charging infrastructure, “defining and executing a go-to-market strategy for residential charging in China.” It’s hiring talent to work on localization in marketing, UX, Android development, and branding.

Lucid is also recruiting staff to manage its supply chains from Shanghai. The firm has been tapping Chinese suppliers, including Shenzhen-based lidar maker Robosense, for its vehicles sold in the U.S., but having someone on the ground will likely make sourcing and communication with suppliers much easier.

The most vital — and difficult — hire is perhaps the public policy head. The person is expected to be the “main point of contact for Chinese government entities at both the national level and with provincial/city/district governments” who “work with Global Head of Public Policy and MD – China, sales, marketing, tax, supply chain and product teams to execute political and regulatory strategy benefitting Lucid’s business in China.”

Any foreign tech firm that has tried entering China knows navigating the country’s regulatory environment is no small feat. But in certain sectors, such as EV, the government has welcomed foreign contenders with open arms, in part to encourage competition.

The greatest success in recent history belongs to Tesla’s Giga Shanghai, which went from starting construction to production in a year. China has not only become a major revenue source for Tesla but a key manufacturing hub — Giga Shanghai is now the world’s largest EV plant. It’s no surprise that Tesla’s China captain Tom Zhu rose through the ranks and was recently given the torch to run the upcoming Gigafactory Austin.

Despite the excitement presented by China, Lucid faces an uphill battle there. Aside from Tesla’s stronghold, the country’s EV market is also crowded with domestic players, including established carmaker BYD and venture-backed upstarts like Xpeng and Nio, who themselves are expanding to Europe to diversify revenue streams.

Lucid’s premium to luxury pricing means it will have a limited reach in China. Tesla managed to carve out more affordable product lines for the market, including a cheaper, Shanghai-made version of Model Y that became a best seller. With government subsidies, the sport utility EV was previously sold for under 300,000 yuan ($43,000). Now with subsidies pared down, Tesla moved to cut its China prices by up to 9% to stay competitive against local rivals.

In comparison, Lucid’s most affordable model, the Lucid Air Pure, has an expected starting price of around €100,000 ($106,000) in Germany and the Netherlands. If Lucid is indeed shipping cars from the U.S. to China, customers also need to pay an import tax.

Lucid probably covets a China plant to bring its costs down. The question is whether the company has the financial prowess and government relations to operate a local plant halfway across the globe. The firm’s CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson did say in November last year that the carmaker planned to have plants in China and the Middle East by mid-decade. Perhaps China’s adroit manufacturing could indeed solve some of the issues troubling Lucid, which announced in August that it would again slash production targets as it faced “extraordinary supply chain and logistics challenges.”

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