These days, It seems as though, if you want to generate excitement about your new luxury electric car, you need to have an eccentric, charismatic figurehead to draw attention. (The cars themselves can be a tad boring at the end of the day, with no roaring or grit-spewing.)
Tesla has Musk, the South African billionaire with six sons, a pixie punk girlfriend, a new brain chip, and visions of dying on Mars. Polestar has Thomas Ingenlath, unmistakable in black trenchcoats at auto shows and quirky in his slim reticence. Fisker has Henrik Fisker, the charming mastermind behind the Aston Martin DB9, V8 Vantage, several yachts and rockets ... and one bad electric sports car.
Now comes Lucid's Rawlinson, the son of a potter who considered art school before studying engineering at Imperial College in London and now satisfies his artistic side with a collection of Gibson guitars. A former principal engineer at Jaguar Cars and chief engineer at Lotus Cars, Rawlinson wears California-casual slacks and slightly disheveled shirts, sans tie - even at car launches. He demurs if, as a matter of course in reporting, you ask his age. But when you ask how many square feet Lucid's Arizona factory spans, he'll happily chirp "two million? or was it three million? I'm having a senior moment - sorry!" and say he's forgotten. (A spokesman said the current Phase One build will create more than 800,000 square feet of space, with "significant" expansion planned for subsequent phases as Lucid adds a line of SUVs and other future models.)
Car racing is a favorite topic for Rawlinson: Under its former brand-name Atieva, Lucid designed, developed, manufactures, and supplies high-density battery packs for all the Formula E racing teams. (Founded as Atieva in 2007, the company changed its name to Lucid in 2016. It is largely funded by a $1 billion investment from Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.)
When asked whether Musk is still a friend - the two would often travel alone by Musk's private jet - Rawlinson clams up. He says he's saving the dish for "my book."
"Let's just say Elon is paying very close attention to what we are doing here," he says with a big laugh.
The Creative Space
Opening to the public later this month - by appointment only - Lucid's Beverly Hills location is designed like a mini mall, with sleek couches oriented around coffee tables for gatherings and women in black cocktail dresses carrying trays laden with bottled water and cups of espresso.
In another corner of the showroom, a virtual realty simulator is equipped with four car seats and a front screen that changes backgrounds from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to the Sonoran Desert to the Pacific Ocean, so potential customers can better visualize preferred colors for the interior seats and trim. It feels like a mall game, circa 1997. (It might be simpler to look at the available colors and choose one you like.)
Two service vans are parked in the back, boasting mobile tire changes (de rigueur at finer dealerships anywhere) and a mobile coffee machine. The man who leads the service team says three vans will be enough to service all area customers - a claim that will leave sun- and asphalt-baked Angelino commuters skeptical as they envision the inevitably long waits and inconvenient logistics of California car culture when service needs arise.