LOHDOWN

Lu­cid dreams of a Tesla chal­lenger

Motor Trend - - Contents - @Lohdown Ed­ward Loh

Lu­cid dreams of a Tesla chal­lenger.

Early in the morn­ing af­ter the lap ses­sion for this month’s cover story (page 30), I grabbed a cou­ple of min­utes with Mo­tor Trend staff pro driver Randy Post be­fore he dashed to catch a flight home. With­out spoil­ing Kim Reynolds’ ex­cel­lent fea­ture, I want to re­lay just a snip­pet of our res­i­dent racer’s thoughts on Tesla’s new Track mode fea­ture.

“An ag­gres­sive full-speed track en­trance led to in­con­sis­ten­cies. It wouldn’t al­ways do the same thing. I go down the straight­away, and I’m head­ing to a cor­ner, I’m think­ing in the back of my mind, I won­der what is go­ing to hap­pen. It was an un­easy feel­ing.”

What struck me about Randy’s cri­tique of the Model 3’s high­per­for­mance mode is that he could have been de­scrib­ing the re­cent be­hav­ior of the guy most re­spon­si­ble for Tesla’s very ex­is­tence. Ag­gres­sive, full­speed, and in­con­sis­tent: Elon Musk’s ap­proach to the auto in­dus­try has been all of those things, and, more re­cently, wildly er­ratic and con­fus­ing. From a cringe­wor­thy law­suit with a Bri­tish res­cue diver in Thai­land, to claims of tak­ing Tesla pri­vate with the back­ing of Saudi in­vest­ment (that sub­se­quently prompted an SEC in­ves­ti­ga­tion), to smok­ing a spliff while ap­pear­ing on

The Joe Ro­gan Ex­pe­ri­ence pod­cast, it is un­der­stand­able why many Tesla cus­tomers and in­vestors are filled with un­ease and won­der.

No longer in the back of my mind is this other thought: When will a true Tesla ri­val emerge? Coke has Pepsi, Nike has Adi­das, Chevy has Ford (and Toy­ota and Hyundai and VW, but that’s a dif­fer­ent story). But where is the real Tesla chal­lenger?

I have to be­lieve the true chal­lenger won’t be one of the tra­di­tional OEMS, but rather a startup as sin­gle-fo­cused and com­mit­ted to the fu­ture of elec­tric ve­hi­cles as Tesla. A quick sur­vey of lead­ing con­tenders, in­clud­ing Fara­day Fu­ture, Lu­cid Mo­tors, NIO, and Ri­vian, re­veals a few fas­ci­nat­ing com­bi­na­tions of fa­mil­iar faces from across the in­dus­try. Plus there are a slew of China-based EV star­tups, among them By­ton, any of which could claim a stake to the new tech­nol­ogy. In par­tic­u­lar, though, Lu­cid and Ri­vian boast im­pres­sive ros­ters.

If you want to beat Tesla at its own game, it helps to have play­ers with insider in­for­ma­tion. And Lu­cid Mo­tors is pos­i­tively stacked with ex-tesla tal­ent from the top down. Co­founder Bernard Tse served as VP and board mem­ber at Tesla be­fore he left to start Atieva, the elec­tric car com­pany that would be­come Lu­cid Mo­tors. Join­ing him are three other for­mer Tesla lead­ers: Peter Rawl­in­son, who was the chief en­gi­neer on the Model S, is Lu­cid’s CTO, and Peter Hasenkamp and Eric Bach es­sen­tially reprise the roles they played at Tesla (sup­ply chain and body en­gi­neer­ing, re­spec­tively) for Lu­cid. VP of de­sign Derek Jenk­ins never worked for Elon, but be­fore he joined Lu­cid, he moved from VW to head Mazda North Amer­ica de­sign when Franz von Holzhausen left that po­si­tion to join Tesla.

Even though Ri­vian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe comes from MIT’S Sloan Au­to­mo­tive Lab­o­ra­tory, he is not yet a fa­mil­iar name in in­dus­try cir­cles. His team is loaded with some eye­brow rais­ers, pri­mar­ily from FCA and Mclaren. Ri­vian’s VP of de­sign, Jeff Ham­moud, was Jeep’s head of de­sign and led pas­sen­ger car in­te­rior de­sign at FCA. He works along­side Ri­vian’s prod­uct de­vel­op­ment lead, Mark Vin­nels, who spent 13 years at Mclaren de­vel­op­ing ev­ery road car from the MP4-12C to the 720S. Both an­swer to a board of di­rec­tors that in­cludes Antony Sher­iff and Tom Gale. The for­mer spent nine years launch­ing and lead­ing Mclaren Au­to­mo­tive as its CEO, and the lat­ter is an Au­to­mo­tive Hall of Fame car de­signer most well­known for his time as Chrysler de­sign chief (and for be­ing our Car of the Year guest judge).

Some heavy­weights, in­deed, but do we have a win­ner? Time will soon tell. Lu­cid Mo­tors just locked down a bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment from Saudi Ara­bia’s sovereign wealth fund (no doubt to Elon’s cha­grin) and has said the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of its Lu­cid Air pro­to­type will come to mar­ket some­time in 2019, while Ri­vian claims its truck and SUV will be un­veiled start­ing in 2020. Who knows where Elon and Tesla will be by then? n

If you want to beat Tesla at its own game, it helps to have play­ers with insider in­for­ma­tion.

RJ Scaringe, Ri­vian Peter Rawl­in­son, Lu­cid

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