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Saudis clinch $1-billion deal with Lucid Motors as Tesla faces criminal probe

19 September 2018 14:22

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s comments about Saudi funding has made him subject of a criminal probe as Riyadh reportedly clinches a $1-billion deal with Lucid Motors, Tesla’s rival.

The US Justice Department has launched an investigation after an August tweet by Musk, in which he speaks of securing funding to take the company private.

According to the country’s state media, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will instead provide funding for Lucid Motors, the electric car startup that aims to compete with Tesla.

A spokesperson for the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) told The Verge that, “By investing in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market, PIF is gaining exposure to long-term growth opportunities, supporting innovation and technological development and driving revenue and sectoral diversification for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

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Peter Rawlinson, chief technology officer of Lucid (and a former executive at Tesla), has also released a statement, to hail the deal.

“The convergence of new technologies is reshaping the automobile, but the benefits have yet to be truly realized,” Rawlinson said. “This is inhibiting the pace at which sustainable mobility and energy are adopted. At Lucid, we will demonstrate the full potential of the electric connected vehicle in order to push the industry forward.”

Tesla’s shares jumped 10 percent after Musk’s tweet, prompting a series of lawsuits over stock manipulation.

Musk defended his tweet by issuing a statement on Tesla’s website, arguing that he had been approached by the Saudis.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

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