By Pesha Magid
RIYADH (Reuters) - Lucid Group has assembled almost 800 cars in its Saudi Arabian factory since its opening, with its main focus on training more than 200 local employees, the EV maker's Middle East managing director said on Wednesday.
California-based Lucid opened its first plant outside the United States in September, with an initial capacity to produce 5,000 EVs a year, after the Saudi government pledged to buy up to 100,000 vehicles from it over 10 years.
"The car is fully built in Arizona ... then it gets de-assembled... then the car gets shipped here as a kit, and that kit is then put back together," Faisal Sultan, who is also Lucid's Global Vice-President, told Reuters.
Workers in the factory in Jeddah re-attach the battery, put the trim and tyres back on and re-test the vehicle, he added.
Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns an over 60% stake in Lucid, invested billions in the company, as part of the government's plans to establish a hub for the EV industry.
Lucid has recorded an accumulated $9.5-billion loss as of September and posted losses every year since its started.
"It (the Saudi factory) is a small operation for us. The reason why we have kept it this way is that we want to take baby steps in our approach of training people," said Sultan.
"You are doing roughly 16, 17 to 20 vehicles a day, rather than an hour, you can spend time with them to really train them," he said.
Lucid is preparing the staff, half of whom are Saudis, for the opening of a complete build unit (CBU), a factory capable of manufacturing a car, in 2026, for which construction has begun.
The CBU's opening depends on supply chains and workforce development, Sultan said, adding: "It has to make business sense at the end of the day for us to open that factory, but construction continues."
Lucid hopes the plant would help encourage key parts suppliers to establish presence in the kingdom.
"We cannot have operations up and running and not be efficient by bringing parts from all over the world."
(Reporting by Pesha Magid; Editing by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Alexander Smith)