Following Tesla's footsteps, Lucid looks to disrupt the car dealership model
Lucid Motors is definitely one of the electric car companies worth keeping an eye on in 2021. The upcoming Lucid Air is looking to go toe-to-toe with the Tesla Model S. And while deliveries are still months away, Lucid has already begun opening studios throughout the country.
Lucid hopes to have 20 open by the end of next year. Recently, the company opened one of these studios in Miami. While in the area, we were invited to stop by and see what it was all about.
The concept of small, intimate showrooms over big, bustling dealerships is still relatively new. Tesla, to some degree, pioneered this approach. That said, legacy automakers haven't joined them (yet). Keep in mind: some archaic laws are preventing them.
In any event, Tesla revolutionized the way we first make contact with cars. In turn, EV industry newcomers will likely put their own spin on what the future car buying experience should look like.
Peter Rawlinson, CEO of Lucid Motors explained, "we designed Lucid Studios to be engaging, to start conversations and to help educate people about the performance and efficiency benchmarks possible in an electric vehicle. A Lucid Studio is a place for people to learn about our unique brand while supporting every facet of the customer journey.”
The Lucid Studio we visited was in Brickell City Centre, a semi-outdoor high-end shopping center near downtown Miami. The retail space occupies a first-floor corner spot which is easily viewed from the street. The location has high foot traffic and an Apple store directly above it. Large windows showcase both the Lucid Air vehicle and a separate, completely-exposed platform.
Of course, it would be difficult to give my impressions of the Studio without drawing comparisons to a standard Tesla store. From a strictly visual standpoint, the two are pretty different. Tesla has adopted a minimalist design for their cars and this design philosophy extends to its stores.
In contrast, Lucid's approach is something I would call a high-end coffee shop vibe (minus the coffee). Lucid is positioning itself as a luxury brand and the Studio's interior design seems to fit the bill. A couple of comfy couches, attractive wood paneling, and soft lighting is a stark departure from the modern, techy Tesla store or sprawling, franchise car dealership.
Of course the luxury experience can still be had at traditional dealerships too. You're allotted plenty more attention at a Porsche dealer than you are at a Kia dealership.
The Lucid Studio we visited is loosely divided into three sections. The first section has the Lucid Air. The second section displayed Lucid's different interiors and paint options complete with a virtual reality set-up. And, a third section showcased Lucid’s platform (completely exposed) along with their battery technology on full display.
This third section caught my attention and it seems to check two major boxes. The first is to attract attention. I mean, come on, how often do you see a car without its body? [Granted, Tesla did this early on in their stores.] The second purpose, however, might prove more valuable for Lucid. It likely has to do with consumer education — something our guide emphasized.
As we continue to see with study after study, traditional dealerships often lack EV knowledge and dealerships tend to steer their customers to gas vehicles instead. With Lucid, as far as we’ve been told, a primary focus is placed on keeping in-store reps up to date on EV education.
The exposed platform along with standalone batteries and motors allow potential customers to gain a better grasp of how an electric car works and opens the door for further discussion. It also makes for an attractive centerpiece inside the Studio. Our guide talked about how the platform provided a helpful visual aid for those that wanted to learn more about how an electric car works.
During our experience, we learned much about how Lucid handles the training for sales associates in order for them to provide both a luxurious experience and an educational one. Potential associates go through multiple rounds of interviews along with a few weeks of training to be able to convey answers to customer questions.
According to our guide, during Lucid's staff training process, associates are instructed to go into Tesla stores to see how their sales staff handle customers. They're also instructed to visit high-end retail stores such as Burberry or Gucci to have a better idea of what luxury customer service should look like.
On the day we visited, we were unable to "test" the staff ourselves. That said, from our own limited interactions and witnessing nearby customer conversations, we remain confident that Lucid will be able to handle even the most jaded anti-EV customer.
Our visit was capped off with a tour of the various interior and exterior options laid out next to the Studio’s VR set-up. The set-up features a cut-out of the front seats and dashboard along with two HTC VIVEs. Since Lucid doesn’t have the ability to keep a 30-car inventory in the middle of downtown Miami, this was the next best thing in order to present different car options to potential customers.
Strap on the VR headset and a sales associate will go through different color combinations with you in different light settings so that you can see how the paint reacts in different environments. You're also free to sit in the virtual car to better decide what interior color you want.
Obviously, nothing beats having the real car in front of you, but this is probably the next best compromise at this point. If nothing else, this novel approach will probably aid in spreading the Lucid brand via word of mouth as the Studio visitors would (likely) later describe themselves configuring a VR car to their friends.
Buying a car may be one of the most unpleasant experiences imaginable. Fast-talking salespeople, price discrepancies, and hours of paperwork can drive basically anyone bonkers. But the tide appears to be shifting with these newer EV companies.
Forgoing the traditional dealership route and embracing small storefronts as Tesla and Lucid have done appears to be the preferred path for a direct sales model. While this likely saves on overhead, it also accomplishes a more personal and relaxed experience for the modern car buyer.
The Lucid experience is similar to Tesla with a luxury twist. These showrooms are meant to act as an initial point of contact (or visual aid) and not much more. Locations will offer test drives but the entire ordering process will be done online. With these smaller locations, vehicle deliveries to customers would be a logistical nightmare. Instead, Lucid Motors will have other locations dedicated to deliveries and service as well.
Lucid seems impressive thus far and their sales experience doesn’t look like it will disappoint. All that’s left, at this point, is to provide a product that will make good on all their promises.
Author's Note: You can listen to more insight on the EVBite podcast here. We should emphasize that our experience was somewhat "unnatural" — this shouldn't be seen as an assessment of Lucid's car buying process or the staff's EV knowledgebase. Previously we’ve put dealerships to the test but were unable to do so this time around. Our arrival was expected (and prepared for) by the team at Lucid. So, this article simply represents our overall impression of the Studio. Hopefully, someday we'll be able to go back in (with some fake mustaches of course) and put the staff through a real test.
An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.