Business & Real Estate

California electric vehicle manufacturer chooses Arizona site for plant

A Menlo Park-based startup manufacturer of electric vehicles has chosen an Arizona site to build a $700 million plant expected to employ 2,000, beating out previously disclosed candidates that included Sacramento and Tracy.

Lucid Motors chose a 500-acre site in Casa Grande, in Pinal County, situated about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.

Lucid hopes to have vehicles on the market by 2018. Lucid, which changed its name from Atieva USA Inc. in October, is hoping to compete against Palo Alto-based electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors.

Lucid reportedly looked at sites in more than a dozen states, but Sacramento and Tracy emerged as candidates in the Golden State in June.

The Sacramento effort was considered a potential boost after California lost out on a long-shot bid for a Tesla battery plant in 2014. In that case, California lost out to the Reno-Sparks area of Nevada.

Lucid is being bankrolled in part by a Chinese internet billionaire. The manufacturer’s interest in Sacramento and Tracy was disclosed in documents filed in January with a state financing authority, but it didn’t become public knowledge until June.

In January, Atieva secured $44.7 million in sales-tax breaks from the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority. Marc Lifsher, a spokesman for state Treasurer John Chiang, who chairs the authority, said the tax relief was contingent on the company choosing a California location.

Atieva was founded in 2007 by former employees of Tesla and Oracle and was originally bent on building car batteries. According to the January state staff report, major shareholders include an affiliate of China’s state-owned Beijing Automotive Industry Holding, Palo Alto venture capital firm Venrock and a Chinese investment fund geared toward clean technology.

Numerous media reports said that another key financier was Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, who made his fortune with an internet-content company that’s known as “the Netflix of China.”

He reportedly is itching to take on Tesla founder Elon Musk for leadership in the electric car business.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover