It’s hard to imagine that the once promising and as some might point out over-promising Faraday Future (FF) that sent the electric vehicle (EV) media into a frenzy seems now lingering in limbo. What happened to FF, anyway?
FF didn’t have the best start two years ago at the CES show in Las Vegas. Its live unveiling was fraught with technical difficulties. It was a let down for many. Yet for those of us interested in the potential of various technologies coming together under the EV roof, it was a promising start. The Tech Crunch interview was crushing, no pun intended. Too little delivered, too much promised that left Nick Sampson trying to steer the conversation back on track. It wasn’t the highlight the company had hoped for, likewise for journalism. To add insult to injury, the same problems happened the following year.
Since then, FF has shown the promising FF91. Despite what happens to the company, we feel the car won’t linger in limbo forever. It could easily resurface elsewhere, or at least parts of it sold off to various companies. The FF91 is indeed a performance EV and the next stage in the higher-end electric drivetrain. A zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in 2.4 seconds and a $180,000 price tag certainly put it in the Ferrari circle.
LeEco Backs Out, Sets Media On Fire
When the famous Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the LeEco founder, aka Le.com, LeTV, etc. backed out of FF stating financial difficulties here in the West and reorganization of finances in the East, depending on where you got your news, this led the media to announce FF’s dying days. Both Jia Yueting and Chaoying Deng were the main investors and shareholders in FF and have left many questions unanswered. To be fair, Yueting is still courting VCs (venture capitalists) and other private financing partners to keep FF running. FF’s passing away is slightly premature at this stage. Chaoying Deng remains eerily unreachable.
We’ve visited the Faraday Future headquarters many times in the past. From its glorious and lush days of its beginning, it is today a shadow of itself. We witnessed the joyful and exuberant new-comers with dollar signs in their eyes to the many who have now continued onto different horizons, mostly with other better-funded EV companies and start. It strangely reminds us of what CODA went through years ago. Talent comes, talent goes, and take with them well-learned experiences. But those who have left have painted a very different story than the media does.
The main figure is Jia. He is certainly one to have wanted to grow faster than the worst of the West has had to offer to date. Maybe it’s a cultural thing or one of perception but the Icarius tale would have shed warnings to fast-rising stars. But don’t focus too long on Jia, Chaoying is where the mystery lies.
What has been reproached to Jia is his enthusiasm and overstating the finances of his new companies. Wanting to keep a tight leash on both FF and LeEco while swapping employees might sound like a great idea, the details are hidden with the team and the expertise. Chaoying’s previous experience has been questioned leading these two big startups simultaneously. Nothing in her resume shows she can lead the finances of an automotive company.
What might have tripped investors, especially those in the West is that Jia and FF originally stated they would make a low amount of luxury EVs in the vicinity of 50,000 cars a year. But then, Jia and FF announced a bigger factory in Nevada, coinciding at the same moment with Tesla’s Gigafactory in the same state. This gave investors the impression FF had bigger dreams and that they should quickly jump on it. But it also raised more suspicions. In either case, it left many unanswered questions.
It’s hard to blame Jia’s enthusiasm to grow bigger. After all, isn’t that the promise of this unbridled capitalistic interpretation we have in the West that has attracted so many from around the globe?
Where are Jia Yueting, Chaoying Deng, LeECo, and Faraday Future Today?
There is no denying that FF is on very shaky grounds today. That is a shame because we need more competition within the EV world. Some will blame the management of FF for changing its plans many times over, squabbling over naming conventions, and that undefined marriage with LeEco. No one was able to explain where one company started and the other picked up.
The tell-tale signs were obvious from the get-go. FF went from 500 employees to 600 by the end of 2015. It eventually ballooned to 1,500 by 2016. In perspective, Lucid managed to design and produce working prototypes of its Air with 300 folks in three years.
In the end, FF’s story might be remembered as 101 case scenario on what not to do when you set up an automotive company in the US. There are plenty of great examples of what to do. Geely’s ownership of Volvo cars for instance and Tata with Jaguar and Land Rover. Both companies left good enough alone while striving to grow the companies toward electrification.
Was it a case of too much, too quickly, too soon? Most likely it is. Sources from the company have often told us there were great ideas but little practicality around how. The sticking part was the finances that were never clear.
And as to the enigmatic Chaoying Deng, The Verge wrote a great piece here, which raises even more questions. In the meantime, FF might go down as an unfortunate casualty of unbridled enthusiasm and a cautionary tale of what not do when investing in the automotive industry. The problem is always the same. The automotive industry needs more “car people” at the helm and investors need to be much more savvy of that industry, how it has been run in the past, of its quirks and other specificities.
We hope Faraday Future will somehow continue to push through, with or without the help of its main investors. We need that competition in the EV industry. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be mesmerized by the ups and downs of that company.
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