In some cities, Phoenix-based Carvana allows buyers to pick up their cars from a giant vending machine.

It’s not a mirage: Arizona is becoming a driving force nationally in numerous facets of the automotive industry, and the impact on our commercial real estate market could be significant for years to come.

Let’s face it. The auto industry in the U.S. has changed dramatically. Detroit, which once proudly wore the moniker of the “Motor City, is a shadow of its former self. Foreign automakers now dominate the market.

With ride sharing, self-driving cars, and electric cars all the rage globally, Arizona is in the fast lane. A Valley entrepreneur is even changing the way cars are sold. More on that later.

California-based Lucid Motors announced it will build a factory in Casa Grande, which will produce its 1,000-horsepower, Air EV luxury production electric car. The $700 million plant in Pinal County will sit on 500 acres of city-allocated land. It is estimated that more than 2,000 new jobs will be created. Lucid has Tesla squarely in its sights.

What will this do for the commercial real estate market in the Sun Corridor? It appears that there is an auto-based economy blooming in the desert. Attesa is a planned 2,300-acre motorsports facility with two racetracks, a hotel, and a private airstrip among its amenities. It is scheduled to be built in Casa Grande.

Even the City of Maricopa is getting on board. It will be the home of a proposed automobile “country club.” Apex Motorsports Club will sit on 280 acres and feature 200 car condos that will allow you to keep your favorite cars close to its four miles of private racetrack and 24,000 square feet of clubhouse and car-pampering space.

If all of these projects come on line, the Sun Corridor will surely see an explosion of auto components manufacturing, maintenance, entertainment, retail, and luxury residential rooftops. With the help of ex-Tesla engineer Peter Rawlinson and an injection of foreign capital, Lucid has the bits in place to become an automobile manufacturing leader in Arizona.

At Local Motors in Phoenix, its Rallyfighter was the car that defined the off-road sports car and was one of the first production vehicles brought to market via co-creation on the web. Powered by a General Motors-produced V8 engine, the Rallyfighter has a price tag of $100,000 and the owner can have a hand in building it at one of several micro factories.

It will gain renewed interest when it makes an appearance in the newest Fast and Furious franchise flick with “Letty” at the wheel. Local Motors recently announced the closure of its Chandler factory, but it will continue engineering and sales in Tempe of its newest venture, Ollie, a 3D printed autonomous minibus.

Ollie is being tested in Germany and appears successful enough to drive Local Motors to plan a ramp up of production.

The future of Phoenix-based Elio Motors, which has more than 64,000 reservations for its $7,300, three-wheel commuter car, is up in the air. At the end of 2016 it was reported that it had about $100,000 in the bank and more than a $123 million deficit. It is a great little car with sound engineering, but it will take more capital and a lot of luck before we see this cute conveyance in large numbers on the road.

Additional players in our auto “industry” are companies testing their autonomous driving vehicles. I’ve seen several new Volvo XC90s cruising around town with “lunar modules” on the roofs since Uber had its self-driving fleet booted from California. Google/Waymo has been here since last year and its test fleet is led by the Lexus RX450h hybrid. It appears that both companies are smitten by luxury SUVs.

Now let’s talk about Carvana. The Phoenix-based company has set its self apart by not only offering no-hassle car purchases and online financing but also delivering those cars to your doorstep. In some cities Carvana allows buyers to pick up their cars from a giant vending machine. I recently drove by one of these coin-operated, eight-story, glass structures in San Antonio. Carvana has put the fun back into car buying.

With a warm climate, large land parcels to develop, an emerging local tech force and proximity to California’s hot car market, Arizona looks to be an exceptional place to do all things auto.

Derek Parker

Derek Parker is a native of Phoenix and has been in the title business for 27 years. He is passionate about commercial parcels, bicycles, and cars. Reach him at