The billionaire’s money stopped showing up. Senior executives resigned left and right. Suppliers said they weren’t getting paid. You have no idea what a mess things are behind the scenes at the mysterious car startup Faraday Future.
For a year now observers in both the automotive and tech industries have wondered what kind of money the Chinese-backed auto startup Faraday Future really has, and how it could pull off its grandiose, world-beating plans. But all is not well there now.
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.
Now, when industry observers and consumers—eager to see what’s next in car technology as our notions of mobility start to change, and wonder what this infusion of mysterious Chinese money really means—look to Faraday Future, they wonder what the hell is really going on. And whether the company can actually deliver on any of its hype in the coming year.
Faraday Future declined to comment, and declined to comment on behalf of Jia, saying he is merely “an investor.” Its so-called strategic partner, LeEco, Jia’s flagship Chinese tech business that is also seeking to build an electric car of its own has not yet responded to requests for comment.
The Supplier Lawsuit
The story of what happened to Faraday Future must start with suppliers—the third-party companies who make various parts and components for cars—not getting paid.
Faraday Future is now getting sued by the supplier that makes its seats, a company called Futuris, over allegedly unpaid bills, as BuzzFeed News broke Thursday. Futuris says that Faraday Future owes no less than $10 million, a stark $7 million of which is more than 30 days overdue.