Lucid CEO says Chinese automakers are still 'years and years behind' Elon Musk's Tesla

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson
Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson. ROBYN BECK/Getty Images
  • Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said Chinese automakers are still "years behind" Tesla on EV technology.

  • He told a Financial Times conference that car companies should not "underestimate" Chinese firms.

  • Companies such as BYD are now challenging Tesla in China after years of rapid growth.

Chinese EV makers are challenging Tesla — but one of the company's rivals still thinks they're years away from overtaking Elon Musk's firm in one respect.

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said that despite their success, Chinese automakers are still some distance behind Tesla when it comes to the underlying technology that powers EVs — but warned that they could catch up quickly.


"If you look at the advance in core EV technology, they're still years and years behind Tesla," said Rawlinson told the Financial Times' Future of the Car Summit in London this week.

The former Tesla engineer said that Chinese EVs had progressed "immeasurably" in recent years, and were now superior to their western counterparts "in terms of fit and finish quality." However, Rawlinson thought their engineering was still lacking.

"In terms of the elegance of their drive train technology, the batteries, the way things are integrated … it's not even close," he said.

"I was looking at a number of the units on display at the Geneva Motor Show and the engineering was very disappointing."

However, Rawlinson warned that Western car makers must not "underestimate" the ability of their Chinese rivals to quickly catch up on core EV technology.

"We underestimated the Chinese ability to make good cars. They're shockingly good. They're a lot better than they've been. They're just not quite there yet," he said.

Western automakers have come under increasing pressure in China from domestic manufacturers that have grown rapidly in recent years. Warren Buffett-backed BYD overtook Tesla as the world's largest EV manufacturer in the last three months of 2023.

After once laughing off Tesla's Chinese rivals, Musk now seems a lot more worried, telling investors that Chinese EVs are likely to "demolish" the competition if trade barriers aren't put in place.

Like other EV startups such as Fisker and Rivian, Lucid has borne the brunt of stuttering demand for electric vehicles in the US.

The company has slashed prices on its high-end Lucid Air sedan to compete with Tesla, and produced less than 10,000 vehicles last year.

However, its backing from the Saudi Public Investment Fund means there is little risk of Lucid running out of money anytime soon, unlike some of its rivals.

The company is also preparing for the launch of its Gravity SUV that boasts a Tesla-beating range of 440 miles and is expected to cost less than $80,000.

Lucid declined to comment further.

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