Bill Strickland had a long career at Ford and Fiat Chrysler before jumping ship last fall to Silicon Valley electric vehicle startup Faraday Future. And before Tuesday night’s extravagant but imperfect reveal for FF’s production vehicle, he chatted with us about his experience so far and why he feels the company is committed to pulling off this vehicular revolution.
Like many other leaders at FF, Strickland told me that despite recent negative headlines about the company’s financial issues, the technology they’re working on is sound and the team feels confident it can bring a product to market in the coming years.
Strickland said he’d been running on an hour of sleep a night or so for the last four days, preparing the FF reveal at this year’s CES conference. Despite the exhaustive routine, the looser mentality of a startup has been a breath of fresh air, after working at Ford—most recently as the global chief engineer for the Fusion—over the last decade. In September, he went to FF.
“I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my career, I am,” he said.
Of course, with FF, there’s a caveat. The company has been bogged down by concerns over its financial state, and Strickland didn’t shy away from that. Asked whether the company had any issues in the run-up to CES stemming from a legal dispute with supplier Futuris Automotive, Strickland said the supplier’s issues were legitimate.
“You’ve seen the articles, right,” he said. “There was a financial concern and, rightfully, they said we have a financial concern and we said yeah,” he told Jalopnik. “[Futuris is] still around. They’re here tonight.”
That wasn’t the only elephant in the room, though. FF still hasn’t restarted construction on its factory in Nevada, though the company suggested in its presentation that Phase 1 of the process is complete; in a video to describe what that meant, all that was shown is flat, barren land.
But Strickland said, hopefully, 2017 will bring an acceleration to the construction process. And he believes concerns about funding will be abated, and FF’s main financier, Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Jia Yuentig, will deliver.
“I believe so,” he said. “There are 1,400 people here who are dependent on it. And so you’re going to see a lot tonight, a lot of people are really excited about what we’re doing. And I have full confidence it’s coming. We didn’t have it for a minute, but it’s coming.”
Strickland paused when asked about production of the FF 91 getting into full swing. “I have to give you the right answer,” he said. “So, I think mid-2018. And I would say maybe earlier.”
Despite the publicized issues, Strickland described a company that’s hell bent on delivering a car that defies any concept of a motorized vehicle. (The FF presentation did in fact include some mumbo jumbo about how the FF 91 might not even be a car, so to speak.)
“The technical competence here is just amazing to me,” Strickland said. “And the excitement. So, you work at a more traditional automotive company and people are used to their jobs, and their more trainload hours. You come here, there’s a passionate bunch of millennials… who work all night and do amazing things.”
So, of course, Strickland brought some expected optimistic musings about his company. But at least he felt open to chat.
After the reveal, a separate FF exec refused to answer any questions on the record from Jalopnik, deferring to the company’s spokespeople. Maybe he thought the reveal said enough.