Building from a bigger blueprint now will make it less costly for Lucid to expand in the future, Hochholdinger said. Initially, the general-assembly area and paint shop will be housed together, with a smaller building for the body shop. In the longer term, Lucid plans to move assembly to its own building and expand the paint shop using  the vacated space.

Powertrain production is in a repurposed warehouse seven miles away from the main factory site. Hochholdinger said assembly of battery packs—using cells imported from LG Chem— won't require as much specialized equipment or bespoke installation, so the current arrangement is a cheaper, more straightforward option.

Lucid touts the operation as the first greenfield electric-vehicle site in the U.S. Tesla, by comparison, invested billions of dollars into what had been a joint-venture facility for Toyota and General Motors in Fremont, California.

While it was able to afford building from scratch, Lucid is still operating on a tight financial leash. The company received more than $1 billion from the Saudi fund in September 2018 and has not raised any additional money  since. Hochholdinger credits a “nitpicky” finance team that requires justification for every purchase order with keeping the company within its budget. Rawlinson, the CEO, also has preached penny-pinching since taking the reins in April 2019.

In several interviews over the course of a year, Rawlinson, formerly the chief engineer of Tesla’s Model S, reiterated the money raised from Saudi Arabia’s PIF would be adequate to get Lucid through the factory build to the start of production.

The debut Air model, which is expected to sell for more than $100,000, can be ordered online, though buyers will be able to kick the tires at one of nine showrooms in the U.S. that Lucid plans to open this year in California and Florida. It has additional outlets slated for next year in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and Europe.

Prior to joining Lucid, Hochholdinger also was at Tesla as vice president of production in charge of the factory in Fremont. Before that, he spent 24 years at Audi and oversaw annual production of 400,000 cars at the peak of his career.

“It did teach me you can do things differently,” Hochholdinger says of his time at Tesla and Lucid. “You don't have to do 100% of the classic things car makers do.”

The city of Casa Grande agreed to reimburse $12.6 million of construction costs and contribute $1.5 million to Lucid’s training budget. The money will be paid if construction benefits local infrastructure and Lucid hires 1,114 full-time local workers, Craig McFarland, the city’s mayor, said in an email. Lucid has hired 733 workers so far, he said.

Arizona also offered $6.3 million in grants and $43.7 million in refundable tax credits if certain conditions are met. Lucid hasn't gotten any of these incentives yet because it hasn't met agreed-upon milestones, according to a spokeswoman for the Arizona Commerce Authority.