Pity the traditional automakers, sitting around waiting to die. The “legacy” car companies, unable to #disrupt and #changetheworld the way Faraday Future and the tech industry can! We pray for the souls of the people in the Motor City and Stuttgart and Japan.
Except after endless hyperbole, teases, bragging about being flush with cash from the Chinese equivalent of Netflix, promises of a new mobility vision for tomorrow, $335 million of dollars in state tax credits and public funding for a brilliant new Nevada factory cranking out “Tesla-killing” autonomous electric machines, Faraday Future came up way short last night in proving to consumers that it’s the real deal.
We got promises of a new electric, modular platform that can accommodate a variety of bodies, like a combination of how Tesla makes cars and how Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Toyota are starting to make cars. That is all very interesting, and no doubt the future of vehicle production, if not quite as groundbreaking as Faraday Future would have you believe.
Problem is, it came wrapped in a 1000 horsepower electric hypercar concept with an uncomfortable more-than-passing resemblance to The Homer.
Today, chief designer told our Andrew Collins that the design “would work” if built, it admittedly will never see production. They say it’s merely the ultimate extension of their technology, but it feels little more than a far-off dream.
So far, then, Faraday Future is a lot of hot air, some stuff we’ve already seen, and something big we’ll never ever see. It took us interviewing executives today to find out that “real” cars are being tested on the roads right now. Why not say that last night, and why not show them to us?
Instead, it’s “Trust us.” And that’s a lot to ask.
This Is Not The iPhone
If Faraday Future wanted to convince the world it planned to be true competitor in the car world in the years to come—a “disruptor,” if you will—it would have unveiled a vastly more plausible concept closer to both production and reality, like a sedan or a crossover. Something viable and believable as a true Tesla competitor.
It’s possible we’ve all been had by Faraday Future, worst of all the State of Nevada. But more on that in a bit.
As Road & Track writer and former Jalopnik scribe Chris Perkins put it last night, months of hype unraveled within 12 hours. It started with a leak from the company’s iPhone app, hilariously enough, that revealed the strange rocket car concept hours too early.
Surely, observers assumed, the company has something real in store, right?
After all, Faraday Future spent the past few months drumming up publicity for the company, its factory, and its status as a legit competitor to Tesla – a competitor Tesla no doubt needs (and will receive soon from Porsche, Mercedes and other “legacy” automakers).
The world expected a real demonstration of what Faraday Future could do. That is not what the world got last night.
Instead, we got words. They “have a good team!” They’re “fast!” They’re “redefining one of the most important aspects of our lives” and “fight(ing) ugliness” and their car “embodies a perfect user experience,” and also—wait for it—what they’re doing now is just like what Apple did with the iPhone in 2007.
Except the iPhone worked, and was made by an established tech titan, and went on sale a few months later. This? This is not the iPhone.
Even if Faraday Future brought this one-seater, 1,000 horsepower Batmobile-esque supercar into production, why would it be a viable competitor in its space? It has no motorsports heritage. It hasn’t done months of testing on the Nürburgring with the world’s top drivers. It hasn’t been benchmarked against the greatest, fastest vehicles on earth.
But Faraday Future didn’t even give us that. The company gave us nothing. We got some glitzy CGI and a rolling model that doesn’t actually work as a car.
That’s fine, if not ideal, if you’re an established automaker, and you want to do something fun that showcases your future design language. But when you’re a nowhere startup, and you say you aim at what is probably the startup world’s greatest success story, you have to aim a lot higher.
The tech world is built around empty promises. The car world has learned to be much more skeptical. What Faraday Future showed us last night is little more than a Lyons LM2 Streamliner or a Devel Sixteen or a Vector WX-8, except loaded with capital.
Why The Factory (And The Money Behind It) Matters
But here’s the biggest problem. Faraday Future has already justified a massive investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in public money for a plant in an economically depressed part of Nevada.
In December legislators there agreed to offer “$215 million in tax credits and abatements, and publicly finance $120 million in infrastructure improvements at an underdeveloped industrial park in the City of North Las Vegas,” the Associated Press reported.
All of that, based on what? How did the state sign off on this? Faraday Future must have something, anything more substantial than the magic rocket car to justify such a huge public investment; why not show that off at CES? If I were a Nevada legislator, I’d be demanding answers today. (Granted, Faraday won’t be able to tap all those abatements until it reaches a $1 billion investment threshold, according to the AP, but it’s still a staggering investment for a total newcomer.)
That’s what’s scary here. The car world is used to flash-in-the-pan concepts that go nowhere. They just never got $335 million in tax breaks until now.
Maybe the powers-that-be in Nevada have seen something we haven’t. Over at The Drive, our friend Alex Roy says he’s seen a Faraday Future vehicle that wasn’t unveiled last night, one more in line with the teaser images we saw a few months ago. Something like:
A big car. Almost minivan-size. Bigger than a Mercedes-Benz F 015 Concept. Something that could fit five to seven people. Something like a Model X, but bigger and cooler and more futuristic. You can see its rear in the bottom pic, and its silhouette in the top pic, where it’s the larger of the two concepts in shadow.
The real Faraday is some kind of insane offspring of a minivan and a Citroën XM. Like a bloated Ford Scorpio or Renault Avantime. Think… a megapod family transporter, or a Megavan—fully electrified and autonomous—like something out of Sleeper or the original Judge Dredd comics. It is far more daring and revolutionary than anything from anyone else, although the F 015 is its spiritual brethren.
It’s the first car truly designed for Luxury Autonomous Mobility.
Which jibes with what Andrew learned today too. So why didn’t we see that last night?
Perhaps Faraday Future does show promise. Claims about the impressive team are correct; it has a startup lineup of former Tesla Motors executives and the designer of BMW’s i3 and i8. The battery packaging technology sounds highly intriguing, though its big debut gave us little to go off of.
For now that’s all the company has going for it; names and promises. Pleas to trust them and have faith because they are Smart and Good and #Disrupting.
And with so much on the line, Faraday Future needed to step up and be better than the concept it showed off last night. Or maybe it doesn’t; why bother, when the tech press is happy to fawn over Faraday Future’s every move without questioning the rationality behind such a huge public investment?
It’s true Nevada is also home to Tesla’s Gigafactory battery plant, for which Elon Musk’s company scored a staggering $1.3 billion in tax breaks as well. But that was in 2014, after Tesla was already a vastly more proven commodity. I doubt Nevada would have done the same in 2009.
I am reluctant to write Faraday Future off entirely as “vaporware,” to say that it will fail in dramatic fashion in a few months never to be heard from again. But I am saying that Faraday Future fell far short of expectations last night in a way that will be very difficult to recover from.
As the auto industry and the idea of personal transportation becomes ever intertwined with Silicon Valley—which, admittedly, can do many things better than traditional automakers—this is the price it must pay. Endless rivers of hype, promises and bullshit from the Great American Long Con that is the venture capital world.
And if Faraday Future fails, it matter for the people who work there, of course. They’ll be moving on to the next big thing by the end of the week, just like its chief battery architect did on Monday.
Faraday Future has a lot to prove, real things to prove, with real money on the line. And it had better get started proving it soon.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.