How Lucid brought the Air Pure EV in for under $90k

Since launching a year ago, Lucid Motors has made a name for itself with six-figure versions of its electric Air sedan that have broken records for battery range and efficiency while delivering roller-coaster levels of performance. A new top version coming next year will be the $250,000 Air Sapphire.

But while the Sapphire will serve as a halo car for the young all-electric brand, the newly launched Air Pure version will be an entry-level “hero” of the lineup, offering a high-tech luxury experience at a sub-$90,000 starting price, executives say.

The Air Pure provides a steppingstone to even more affordable Lucids, since the core technology will find its way into a broader lineup of vehicles later in this decade with prices starting at $50,000 or so to compete with luxury EV competitors, the company said.

Derek Jenkins, senior vice president of design and brand, told Automotive News there is pride among the design and engineering teams in being able to deliver the Pure as a unique alternative to the pricier trims that is not a bare-bones model customers have to settle for.

“All of the development of the high-end cars has trickled down to this car at a better entry-level price, but still with pretty remarkable specifications,” Jenkins said in an interview this month at Lucid’s headquarters in Newark, Calif. That’s why the Pure is considered the “hero of the group.”

For reference, Lucid launched with the limited-run Dream Edition last year, starting at $170,500 with shipping, and then debuted the Grand Touring with a starting price of $155,650. Last week was the official launch of the Pure, at $89,050, and the Touring at $109,050.

The most obvious visual difference with the Pure, inside and out, is its use of an aluminum roof in body color in place of the massive tinted glass roof featured on higher trims. The result is the loss of some “wow” factor, but also a somewhat more unified appearance with the painted roof.

“The feedback has been pretty remarkable,” Jenkins said.

Painted in a new Lucid color, Fathom Blue, the steely paint across the entire body of the Pure gives a fresh aesthetic. Some Lucid employees prefer it to the glass canopy, although it does reduce the perception of space inside, Jenkins said.

On the inside, Lucid’s designers kept the big infotainment screens to maintain a high-tech feel for the Pure, Jenkins said. The tech vibe translates to interior fabric from recycled fibers and a leather-alternative material that can both save on costs and attract younger buyers.

“It’s got a furniture vibe about it,” said Jenkins, comparing the Pure with higher trims of the Air that use real leather. Influences for the Pure interior include mid-century modern furniture, he said.

Some cost-cutting was unavoidable. But the lower-price model still benefits from Lucid’s industry-leading EV powertrain.

That means 410 miles of range from a 92 kilowatt-hour battery pack, compared with 516 miles of range from the Air Grand Touring with a larger pack.

One benefit of the smaller battery on the Air and Touring is greater rear-seat legroom since several battery modules have been removed from underneath the vehicle, opening up the foot well, Jenkins said.

The launch edition of the Air Pure comes with optional features that include all-wheel-drive, optional wheels and an upgraded stereo that push the price to $100,550, Lucid said. Dual motors, front and rear, offer 480 hp and 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 3.8 seconds.

The absolute base version will go into production next year with a single motor at the rear. Lucid hasn’t given power numbers for the $89,050 version of the Pure.

Some automotive enthusiasts on social media have criticized the Pure for its traditional roof, but others have praised it for delivering range and performance that’s competitive with luxury EVs in its class, including the venerable Tesla Model S.

And the Pure is only a first step toward more affordable Lucid vehicles in the latter part of the decade when it launches its smaller “midsize” platform, executives say.

“Lucid is about technology, it’s about efficiency, it’s about taking the EV experience to a new level,” Jenkins said.

“We have a purpose. It’s not just making luxury cars.”

Column: In defense of picking Joe Manchin, Elon Musk as Automotive News All-Stars

Every year, the editorial staff of Automotive News convenes to select our annual All-Stars, an exercise that often involves vigorous debate and occasionally tough decisions.

Our goal is to recognize leaders who have steered their companies through extraordinary challenges, led their organizations to new heights and innovated in ways that will transform the automotive landscape.

Take Leoni CEO Aldo Kamper, our 2022 Industry Leader of the Year, whose employees make wiring harnesses in Ukraine and were thrust into an awful war. If given a choice, I’m sure Kamper, his workers and Leoni’s customers would much rather have never had to deal with Russia’s aggression than received an award. But the reality is that they have persevered through grim circumstances, and we commend Leoni as well as pray for its workers’ safety and the end of this conflict.

We intend for the All-Stars listing to have a celebratory overtone. After all, we invite the honorees to a ceremony in downtown Detroit to hand out trophies and celebrate their accomplishments.

Of the 38 selections we made this year, at least two are certain to raise some eyebrows: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and the increasingly omnipresent boss of Tesla — and now Twitter — Elon Musk.

Manchin and Musk have generated their share of controversy, and they won’t win any popularity contests in some circles, but there is no denying that each has had an outsized impact on the industry this year.

Let’s start with Joe Manchin, whom we named Industry Newsmaker of the Year. No person this year has changed the vector of the automotive industry the way Manchin has, and he did it wielding the power of a single swing vote in an evenly divided Senate.

The senator from West Virginia squashed his fellow congressional Democrats’ and President Joe Biden’s notion of the federal government handing out $7,500 tax credits to all consumers of electric vehicles, plus $4,500 for EVs assembled by domestic union workers and $500 for U.S.-produced batteries. The union provision particularly irked foreign automakers that have major non-union U.S. assembly operations such as Toyota and Honda, and Tesla, which is also not unionized. The EV tax credit was dead, Manchin declared.

Automakers and their retailers would be left to their own devices in attempting to sell big-ticket EVs without $7,500 credits once the automakers had exhausted their 200,000-vehicle allotment — the situation facing General Motors and Tesla — or so it seemed.

Coming from a coal-producing state, Manchin had the veneer of being anti-EV, which played into his brinkmanship. He ended up brokering a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and revamped EV tax credits were folded into the quixotically named Inflation Reduction Act. In short, the legislation favors North American production of vehicles and batteries and U.S. sourcing of battery materials, decreasing dependence on China.

Manchin has certainly created headaches for a big chunk of the industry, notably South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group, which has been building strong EV sales momentum in the U.S. this year. Every single automaker that does business in this country has had to quickly reevaluate their assembly and supply chains.

We’re seeing some early evidence that Manchin’s power play is working as intended, as automakers and suppliers in quick succession announced battery plant projects across the country, and new EV-dedicated assembly plants are in the works.

That’s the power of one vote.

It’s easy to be distracted by Elon Musk’s insatiable appetite for attention and boundless capacity for stirring up controversy, especially since his October purchase of a $44 billion megaphone called Twitter and the ensuing corporate chaos at the social media network. Will Twitter even be functioning by the time you read this?

But remember, he’s also in charge of a car company, one that has had another enormously successful year, earning him his fourth All-Star award, this year in the Luxury category.

With only four nameplates and no significant exterior or interior redesigns, Tesla continues to defy conventional expectations and leads the U.S. luxury market by a wide margin, thanks in part to branding and also to sidestepping some of the supply chain pitfalls experienced by rival automakers. Experian reported 346,827 Tesla registrations this year through September, compared with 236,513 for BMW, 204,120 for Mercedes-Benz and 201,830 for Lexus.

It’s not just the BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Lexuses of the world chasing Tesla. Every automaker, either well-established or trying to crawl over this industry’s high barrier of entry, would kill to have the brand appeal that Tesla has.

Panel gaps? Software glitches? Bad PR over AutoPilot? Lack of a service network? Musk’s Twitter antics and specious free-speech arguments? Yes, some customers have turned in their Teslas and not looked back, but legions of Elon fans in the U.S. and abroad are largely unbothered.

And with the opening of factories in Austin, Texas, and Germany this year, Tesla shows no signs of cooling down anytime soon.

That’s something worth tweeting about.

Faurecia’s new leather-wrapping process offers new design possibilities

A new leather-wrapping solution developed by French supplier Faurecia could allow automakers to make more unique designs in their vehicle interiors and localize more of the production process.

Traditionally, wrapping an interior component such as a door panel or center console in leather or another material is a costly, time-consuming process. It’s something that typically has to be done manually and can often result in seams that vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle as the material is stitched in place.

“There’s a trade-off between placing the seam correctly and then trying to pull the corners over,” said Shefic Khoury, vice president of engineering for interiors at Faurecia North America, a Forvia group company. “It’s easy to misplace things just a little bit. It’s a very manual process that takes a lot of labor.”

Faurecia’s new PREPO 3.0 solution is designed to change that. The leather — or artificial leather — to be wrapped around an interior component comes pre-aligned, with the seam essentially being attached to a plastic insert. That insert is then placed into the component, and the material can then be wrapped around the part.

The result is more consistency from vehicle to vehicle, Khoury said.

A traditional leather wrapping operation could result in small variations from vehicle to vehicle of about 2 millimeters on parts with complex, 3D shapes —”which in terms of quality is questionable,” he said.

PREPO 3 cuts that variation down to as little as 0.5 millimeters, Khoury said.

“You no longer need to sacrifice design quality,” he said. “We’re providing the freedom to allow for the same expectations and the same quality on any kind of geometry. There’s so much more design freedom.”

Faurecia validated the technology in 2021, and its first customer was electric truck startup Rivian. Khoury did not disclose other customers in the wings, but he said “many more applications” are in the works.

PREPO allows automakers to rely less on simple, straight lines when it comes to interior design, he said.

“For example, if you look at most cars on the market, you don’t see many seam lines covering and following the shape of the instrument cluster because they would not like to sacrifice quality with variations from car to car,” he said. “That’s not a problem anymore.”

The new leather-wrapping process could also help companies reduce labor costs and on the cycle involved in getting a part wrapped.

To hold down costs, companies often outsource leather wrapping to low-cost production sites, which then ship the component to a vehicle plant for final assembly, Khoury said. But those sites can also be limited in how many parts they can wrap in a given period. The slow work and bottleneck are reasons leather and artificial leather are often reserved for premium vehicles or higher trim levels.

But by cutting the costs and cycle time, automakers can do more leather wrapping close to the assembly plant. And the shorter shipping distances can lead to further cost savings and carbon footprint reductions.

“You’re not restricted to premium vehicles anymore because quality variation isn’t a problem now,” Khoury said. “You have the scale and the volume you need.”

The Faurecia brand is now a part of Forvia, which formed this year following the company’s acquisition of Hella. Forvia ranks seventh on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with 2021 worldwide parts sales to automakers of $25.88 billion.

VinFast ships first EVs to the U.S.

HAI PHONG, Vietnam – Vietnamese EV maker VinFast said on Friday it had shipped its first batch of 999 cars to the United States, capping a five-year bid to develop an auto production hub in the Southeast Asian country for North American and European markets.

The first cars are expected to be handed over to customers by the end of December, the company said.

VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy said some of the VF 8 electric crossovers being shipped Friday would be sent to U.S. car subscription service Autonomy but the majority would go to retail buyers who have ordered the car.

Thuy said VinFast expected to be able to ship a second batch of cars to the U.S., its first export market, around January.

VinFast is in the process of building an EV plant in North Carolina that is awaiting final regulatory approval from local officials.

Thuy said the company expected to start production at the North Carolina factory in July, 2024 and that electric vehicles built there would qualify for incentives under the terms of the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The Inflation Reduction Act, as currently written, requires automakers to have 50 percent of critical minerals used in EV batteries come from North America or U.S. allies by 2024, rising to 80 percent by the end of 2026.

Major automakers have said those targets are unrealistic and it was not immediately clear how VinFast would meet the sourcing requirements.

“The IRA came as a surprise to all of us but it doesn’t really impact our strategy in the U.S.,” Thuy told Reuters. “As soon as we start manufacturing cars in the U.S., our customers will be eligible [for] the tax incentive.”

VinFast said last week that Autonomy had ordered 2,500 EVs, its largest corporate order to date. VinFast has said it has almost 65,000 orders globally in total and expects to sell 750,000 EVs annually by 2026.

Behind schedule

The North Carolina factory project is running months behind schedule, based on the company’s initial targets, and the first shipment of EVs built by VinFast was short of the initial goal to deliver as many as 5,000 cars built at its factory in Haiphong by December.

VinFast officials said the number 999 for the vehicles shipped in the first batch had been chosen because it is considered a lucky number in Vietnam.

“There is no luckier number than 999,” Thuy said. The Panamanian-chartered transport ship used to send the first shipment of VinFast EVs had the capacity to carry up to 2,000 vehicles, officials said.

Bosch uses AI at South Carolina plant to design new e-motors

CHARLESTON, S.C. — German supplier Robert Bosch is in the midst of transforming a portion of its factory to build electric motors and other components for electrification as part of a $260 million investment.

The project will require Bosch to build flexible lines that can support e-motor configurations that vary from customer to customer. Doing that requires the use of artificial intelligence — along with a healthy dose of good, old-fashioned trust between Bosch and the automakers it sells to, said Li Jiang, Bosch’s head of engineering for eMotor & eAxle, North America.

Jiang, 40, a 2015 Automotive News Rising Star, spoke with Staff Reporter John Irwin at the Bosch Charleston plant in late October about the company’s thinking. Here are edited excerpts.

Q: How is Bosch using AI in the e-motor design and production process?

A: We have a design approach where we aren’t defining exactly what the product is. But we are defining the fundamental technology package that will be included in the product, whatever the design ends up being. That’s reflected in the manufacturing line setup. It gives us enough flexibility on design to meet a customer’s key performance metrics.

Design is where the artificial intelligence can come in. We’ll do different designs, and in-house tools that we developed, coupled with AI, help us to pick the optimal design to meet customers’ key performance metrics. It will help us reduce the number of design iterations, which ultimately accelerates the development process. The development cycle in this space is much faster than what we’ve seen in the past.

What are some of the key performance indicators that automakers are looking for?

Different customers can focus on different KPIs, but efficiency is really important in a BEV.

Cost and the performance are important, meaning how much torque or power this delivers as part of the power density. And obviously, everybody would like to have a compact device.

How do you ensure Bosch can produce high-tech e-motors on a shared line to different customers’ specifications?

Close collaboration between a supplier like us and the OEM is extremely important. When measuring an EV’s efficiency, the motor is only part of the equation. There are so many things along the way that will ultimately impact efficiency.

We have a common goal to launch a quality part. We cannot sacrifice quality for speed, so we look at how can we accelerate and have closer and more transparent cooperation with our customer, to co-develop the end product and put a good product into the market.

Helfman Maserati hosts party to show off Grecale

Dealerships don’t always need to sell customers on the car.

Sometimes just putting them in the right environment can do the trick. It helps to add a little glitz to the mix with drinks and fancy hors d’oeuvres, as Helfman Maserati of Houston has found.

The store showcased the luxury brand’s new Grecale crossover for prospective clients during a launch event in September. Consumers got a chance to look at three Grecales on the showroom floor, enjoy plenty of food and beverages, and mingle with brand ambassadors who could share details and answer questions about the vehicle.

Dealer principal Steven Wolf said the store took “six or seven” orders on the spot.

He’s a firm believer that putting products in front of people, without creating urgency or high pressure, still works. The store used this approach, with similar success, for the Maserati Levante crossover in 2016.

For the Grecale event, the dealership arranged the food and drink service, while Maserati added to the atmosphere with decorative banners, a coffee bar and a “step and repeat” for attendees to take photos in front of a background.

About 250 people showed up — mostly past customers and socialites from the Houston area.

“The No. 1 goal is not really to get them to buy,” Wolf told Automotive News. “I think the No. 1 goal is product awareness. It’s a non-sales environment. It’s fun.”

On the morning of the event, Maserati conducted some sales and product training for dealership employees. Wolf said the focus was on the Grecale’s mild-hybrid engine technology and how the crossover stacks up to the rival Porsche Macan.

The Grecale, which also will be offered as a conventional gasoline model, is slated to get a battery-electric variant in 2023 to broaden the portfolio. Maserati plans to go fully electric by 2030.

“They’re really going after Macan,” Wolf said. “They even brought a Macan out with them. They showed the salespeople the difference in performance and styling and technology and standard equipment versus the Macan.”

The Grecale get-together built on the close relationships that the store has developed over the years with its customer base, Wolf said. The dealership sold 193 new and used vehicles last year.

Wolf said the goal of the event was to simply put Grecale on the map and let people know it’s coming.

“There’s not a significant amount of volume over there, [so] it’s very personable,” Wolf said. Salespeople “have tremendous rapport with the customers. When [customers] come in, they know everybody, they know the managers. It’s just a way to [say], ‘Hey, don’t buy the car today, but just let me show you what we’ve got.’ ”