The project eventually will expand to include its own stamping operations, according to Lucid. The company expects to begin early production late next year.
Another U.S. startup, EV truckmaker Rivian, acquired Mitsubishi's closed assembly plant in Normal, Ill., for an initial outlay of $16 million. Rivian was motivated to obtain not merely the building but also access to the trained automotive work force Mitsubishi left behind.
Another startup, the Chinese-funded Karma Automotive, opened a plant in Moreno Valley, Calif., just east of Los Angeles. Though that site has the capacity to produce 10,000 hand-built vehicles annually, production of Karma's Revero GT hybrid performance sedan is only expected to total 500 to 1,000 units a year. Karma said it is proposing using its excess plant to build vehicles for other automakers.
Yet another contender for U.S. electric vehicle production, Faraday Future, is going ahead with an assembly plant project despite reported financial challenges at the venture.
The company originally said it would spend $1 billion to build a greenfield plant in Las Vegas. It now intends to convert a former Pirelli tire factory in Hanford, Calif., near Silicon Valley.
Lucid had planned to begin construction of a U.S. auto plant in early 2017. The company's groundbreaking last week in Arizona comes as the industry zeal for EVs intensifies.
Lucid was founded as Atieva in 2007 by software entrepreneur Sam Weng and former Tesla executive Bernard Tse. It is supported by an investment of more than $1 billion from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
Several of Lucid's top managers have prior experience with Tesla, including Rawlinson, formerly a senior engineer at Tesla who was chief engineer on that company's Model S.
Lucid intends to produce a sedan called the Air, slated to have a 400-mile battery range, according to the company, and costing more than $100,000. It expects to manufacture 15,000 vehicles during its first full year of production in 2021.
Rawlinson said last week that the Arizona greenfield site beat out nearly 60 other locations. He said the company was attracted by Arizona's business climate, infrastructure, talent, geographic location and the automotive supply chain in the Arizona-Sonora region.
He said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was personally involved in assisting the project, and that the state will support the plant's worker training programs.