Faraday Future — FF for short — has been making mainstream headlines over the weekend after announcing Thursday that it will soon say where its state-of-the-art, $1 billion U.S. manufacturing facility will be built or refurbished. The company, which already claims 400 employees in its headquarters in Gardena, Calif., says it has considered sites in California, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada.
Quite a few wannabe high-tech auto startups have skidded off the road to actual production over the last decade, Chris Woodyard points out in USA Today, but “few have ever merited the kind of attention that has gone to Faraday in the past four days. It started with media reports like the one from the Wall Street Journal reacting to the press release about its $1-billion plans, and finding executives coy about naming the source of its funds.”
Indeed, “that sort of an amount is going to come from a different number of sources,” product development chief Nick Sampson, who had been lead chassis engineer for Tesla’s Model S until early 2012, told the WSJ’s Mike Ramsey. “We are keeping our partners confidential.”
Then, as Woodyard observes, the Los Angeles Times’ Jerry Hirsch and Samantha Masunaga reported Friday “the Faraday brand is tied to a Chinese multibillionaire with towering ambitions and an equally tall pile of cash.”
That would be Jia Yueting, the chairman and founder of Leshi Internet Information & Technology Co., also known as LeTV.
“He emulates Steve Jobs’ fashion sense but loves to brag that his company has already surpassed Apple in areas including design, craftsmanship, hardware and business models,” the LAT’s Julie Makinen writes in a separate profile. “His company — which is involved in film production, ‘smart’ TVs, video streaming, mobile phones, bicycles and more — has been called the ‘Netflix of China.’”
Indeed, the Las Vegas Sun reported in September that California incorporation forms for FF, Inc. list Chaoying Deng as CEO, Automotive News’ Gabe Nelson tells us. She is a corporate director at Le Vision Pictures, the film division of LeTV, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Sampson, meanwhile, seems to be the go-to executive for the corporate vision.
“We will launch a single model and follow with a range of vehicles in a faster way than others have achieved,” Sampson told Bloomberg’s David Welch and Dana Hull in a phone interview last week. “We’re looking at seven different vehicles.”
But “our business model is not based around moving a car out of the dealer,” Sampson told Bloomberg. “We envision this like a smart phone. The revenue starts once you get the device in the owners’ hands. We’re looking at subscriptions and apps and other opportunities.”
Indeed, “Faraday hopes to distinguish itself by branding the car less as transportation than a tool for the connected class,” writes the AP’s Justin Pritchard on USNews.com
“People's lives are changed by their mobile devices, the way that we interact,” Faraday spokeswoman Stacy Morris tells him. “The car industry hasn't caught up sufficiently. The car still feels like a place where you're disconnected.”
If all goes according to plan, we’ll get a peek at what that really means as early as 2017, when Faraday has said it wants to bring its first vehicle to market.
Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman revealed the names of some of the former Tesla employees already employed by the company — then with about 200 employees in total — in a piece in July, including “some fairly big heavy hitters,” and “an eight-person marketing team.”
“When pushed about not only the viability of the company, but the reality of launching a car in 2017, I was told, “We’re not Tesla. But we’re not Fisker, either. We’re not fucking around.”
That’s definitely a tagline you won’t see in a full-page ad in the New York Times anytime soon, but it may prove to be perfect for the connected class. Now all they have to do is put a car on the road that proves it.