EV startup Lucid Motors snaps up Tesla’s former production executive

Lucid Motors, the electric vehicle startup backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has hired Peter Hochholdinger to head up manufacturing operations just a week after news leaked the automotive executive had left a similar post at Tesla.

Hochholdinger was an executive at Audi for more than two decades before joining Tesla as its top production executive in 2016. He oversaw Tesla’s vehicle factory in Fremont, Calif., its castings site in Lathrop, Calif., as well as its Tilburg facility in The Netherlands. Hochholdinger was senior director of production for Audi A4, A5 and Q5 when he left for Tesla.

The automotive veteran will lead Lucid’s global manufacturing operations, starting with its planned factory in Casa Grande, Ariz. He will also oversee manufacturing engineering, according to Lucid.

Hochholdinger’s departure from Tesla and his arrival at Lucid comes at a crucial time for both companies. Tesla has struggled in the past two years to remove bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3. While it has smoothed out much of those issues, it’s about to embark on its next vehicle, the Model Y.

Meanwhile, Lucid, which aims to be a competitor to Tesla, is on the verge of producing its first electric vehicle, the Lucid Air.

Lucid will need the kind of institutional knowledge Hochholdinger gained over his career as it moves toward its first production vehicle, the Lucid Air, as well as future models.

Lucid Motors was founded in 2007 with a different name and mission. The company, called Atieva at the time, was focused on developing electric car battery technology. It then shifted to producing electric cars and changed its name in 2016.

Since its pivot, the company has unveiled the Air, announced plans to build a $700 million factory in Arizona and signed a deal with Samsung SDI to supply it with lithium-ion batteries and moved into spacious new digs. Lucid entered a quiet period as it sought funding to build its factory, eventually landing a $1 billion investment from Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund.

Lucid said at the time that the $1 billion in funding would be used to complete engineering development and testing of the Lucid Air, construct its factory in Arizona, begin the global rollout of its retail strategy starting in North America and enter production.