Saturday, December 17, 2016

The future of Faraday Future is questionable

Exceptional work by Raphael Orlove of Jalopnik.(the spirit of Gawker lives on). The whole article is highly recommended.

Sources close to Faraday Future, including suppliers, contractors, current, prospective and ex-employees all spoke to Jalopnik over a number of weeks on conditions of anonymity and said the money has been M.I.A., the plans are absurd and the organization verges on the dysfunctional.

A year ago, things seemed very different. In late November of 2015, Faraday Future burst onto the scene with promises as big as its name was mysterious.

Staffed by prominent industry figures poached from companies like Tesla, Apple, Ferrari and BMW, FF made bold, unprecedented promises: an electric car that could not only drive itself but connect to its owner’s smartphone and learn from their daily habits to become the ultimate personalized vehicle. And if ownership didn’t suit their lifestyle, fine; the company was eager to expand into ride-sharing and autonomous fleet services.

With a $1 billion facility in Nevada, the company promised production by 2017. Forget what you know about cars, the teaser videos proclaimed. A revolution is coming and we would see it at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. Everyone anticipated an actual car that could live up to these claims.

Then January and CES rolled around and the company revealed that yes, that wild rocket-looking supercar that leaked onto the internet via an app really was Faraday Future’s show car. But not its actual production car. That would come later, the company swore after an embarrassing debut that laid the hype and the buzzwords on thick but had seemingly little to back it up. In the meantime the company promised a “skateboard” modular electric platform that could be adapted to suit several different body styles.

But everything would be fine, right? After all, FF was getting $335 million in state tax incentives and abatements from Nevada for its plant, and it was sponsoring a Formula E team. And in the company’s own words, it would do for cars what the iPhone did for communications in 2007. And Faraday Future is funded by Jia Yueting, a tech mogul in China known for starting the country’s first paid video streaming service. It’s often nicknamed “The Netflix of China,” and it brought Jia the billions he needed to start a whole tech empire, selling everything from smartphones to TVs to cars.

What could go wrong?

That was in January. FF spent the next several months in the news over and over again, almost always for reasons no company wants to be in the news. There was the lag on payments to the factory’s construction company, the senior staffers jumping ship, the confusing debut of a seemingly competing car from the company helmed by its principal backer, the lawsuits from a supplier and a landlord who said they weren’t getting paid, the work stoppage on the factory, the state officials in Nevada who said Jia didn’t have as much money as he claimed (something that Jia denied in a haters-are-my-motivators statement), and the fact that leaders in that state copped to never really knowing much about FF’s financials before approving that incentive package.

I wish I could say this in front of every sentence I write about Faraday Future, but from everything I’ve seen there is good and serious engineering work getting done at the company.

If anything, Faraday Future has too many people working on one of the most interesting cars we’ve seen in years, engineers crammed computer to computer, even on fold up-picnic tables as one anonymous interviewee told Jalopnik. All-electric, eyes on autonomy, with incredible performance and design. “There’s a lot of good people there,” one source noted. “That’s the worst part.”

But you can’t have this engineering side without a solid business to back it up, and the good work at Faraday Future seems like it has been constantly undone by the unrealistic demands of its top leadership and a money gulf across the Pacific.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm . . . a Gawker media entity, using actual facts to badmouth a big-money Silicon Valley tech venture? Sounds like the recipe for another Hulk Hogan-style SLAPP suit.