Saudi Arabia has found itself in a never-ending money pit with Lucid, providing a harsh lesson on the capital intensity, scale economies, and brand building required in the auto industry. Lucid, an American electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, has become a costly venture for the Saudi government as they continue to pour money into the struggling company. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) invested $1.3 billion in Lucid back in 2018, with hopes of diversifying their economy and supporting the development of the electric vehicle industry. At the time, Lucid seemed like a promising investment, with plans to challenge Tesla's dominance in the EV market. However, the reality has proven much more challenging. Lucid has faced numerous setbacks since the initial investment. The company has struggled with production delays, pushing back the release of their luxury electric sedan, the Lucid Air. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these issues, leading to further delays and disruptions in the supply chain. Despite these setbacks, the Saudi government has continued to inject cash into the struggling company, committing an additional $1 billion earlier this year. This brings the total Saudi investment in Lucid to $2.3 billion, a staggering amount for a company that has yet to deliver a single vehicle to customers. The endless flow of cash from Saudi Arabia highlights the challenges faced by startups in the auto industry. Building a successful automotive brand requires substantial investment in research and development, manufacturing facilities, and marketing. Tesla, for example, burned through billions of dollars before finally turning a profit. The capital intensity of the auto industry is significant. Developing and manufacturing vehicles at scale is an expensive endeavor, requiring massive investments in factories, equipment, and supply chains. Lucid has struggled to reach the necessary economies of scale to make their operations financially viable. Furthermore, brand building is a critical aspect of success in the automotive industry. Established brands like Tesla and Toyota have spent decades cultivating their reputations and customer loyalty. Breaking into this market as a new player requires a significant investment in marketing and advertising to build awareness and trust among consumers. Lucid has also faced stiff competition from other EV manufacturers, including Tesla, which has a significant head start in the market. Tesla's brand dominance and extensive charging infrastructure have given it a competitive advantage over newcomers like Lucid. The Saudi investment in Lucid was likely driven by a desire to challenge Tesla's dominance, but it has proven to be an uphill battle. The Saudi government's continued financial support for Lucid raises questions about their investment strategy. While diversifying their economy away from oil is a wise move, it is important to carefully evaluate potential investments and assess the risks involved. In the case of Lucid, the Saudi government may have been too optimistic about the company's prospects. The EV market is highly competitive, and success is far from guaranteed. It is crucial for investors to conduct thorough due diligence and consider the challenges specific to the auto industry. The Saudi investment in Lucid also highlights the need for government support in the development of the electric vehicle industry. As countries around the world push for a transition to cleaner transportation, governments play a vital role in supporting the growth of the EV market. However, it is essential to strike a balance between supporting promising startups and avoiding wasteful investments. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how Lucid navigates the challenges they face. The additional funding from Saudi Arabia may provide a much-needed lifeline for the company, allowing them to continue their operations and eventually bring their vehicles to market. However, the path to success in the auto industry is long and treacherous, with many hurdles along the way. Overall, the Saudi investment in Lucid serves as a cautionary tale for startup companies and governments looking to enter the auto industry. It is a stark reminder of the capital intensity, scale economies, and brand building required to succeed in this highly competitive market. While the future of Lucid remains uncertain, the lessons learned from this venture will undoubtedly shape future investment decisions in the evolving world of electric vehicles.
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