Wannabe electric automaker Faraday Future had amassed an impressive amount of hype going into CES, only to drop the ball and disappoint everybody looking for something real. Then the interviews started, and things got even messier.
Matt Burns of Tech Crunch sat down with Nick Sampson, the Senior Vice President of Research and Development of Faraday Future, at CES to totally scorch him and his company. I mean interview. They interviewed him.
The very first question from Matt Burns set the tone (around the 01:15 mark):
Burns: [Referencing Faraday Future FFZERO1 Concept] What the hell is that?!
Sampson: That’s, um, a representation of our company. It’s good looking, it’s fast, it’s dynamic, and it’s revolutionary.
Burns: It looks like a Hot Wheels car. Is it supposed to look like a Hot Wheels car?
Oof, but there’s a point to that! Faraday’s introduction at CES was the company’s first big chance to live up to the hype—to show us the boxy, ergonomic and interactive transport accessory of the future we were sort of expecting. And instead they brought a pseudo-race car thing. That is how they want people to see Faraday Future? How is an irrational concept is worth a $1 billion factory and $335 million in taxpayer incentives so far?
The only logical explanation behind FF bringing this concept car from crazy town is that the real car wasn’t ready for whatever reason.
Sampson: We don’t want to show what we’re doing for the production cars, so we put a beautiful, interesting body on top of [the platform] instead of our production content.
First of all, that concept didn’t actually, you know, drive. So, all in all, Faraday Future brought nothing to the stage.
Mercedes gets away with a B.S. concept because we already know Mercedes can build cars very successfully. With Faraday Future, we know nothing. CES was a big missed opportunity for a startup looking to make (positive) waves, because we still know nothing more than we did on January 3rd.
Sampson (around 03:00): One of the key lines is that line you can see along the side — the crease that pretty well runs the whole way around the car that creates a feature. We call that the — uh.. [someone off stage speaks] the U.F.O. line! The UFO [pronounced you-foe] line!
He forgot the name of the defining feature of the Faraday Future brand of design, which is apparently the only hint of the actual car we got from CES, besides a platform that didn’t work and we couldn’t actually see. Hmm.
Burns: That’s a goddamn car. Why are you a tech company?
Sampson [paraphrased]: The car side — we’re just going to be merely better than anybody else. That’s the easy part for a car guy like me. But what do the consumers want? You’re talking to me like a car guy. We’re at the Consumer Electronics Show. Don’t you want to know what the download speed is for this car?
Sampson: Whether it’s 4G or 5G connected?
Burns: No. [Asking audience] Does anybody want to know how fast it goes, or if it has 4G? Raise your hand.
Sampson: We need to look at the ages of the respondents.
This is where I want to put that girl from the taco shell commercials—why not both?
But Matt Burns has a point. The user experience to the car is only a small element of what makes a practical car. He brought up chassis, safety, drive systems, suspension, and braking, which Sampson put down with the vague promise of being “merely better than everybody else.”
I understand that FF’s whole approach to the automobile (supposedly) is to revolutionize what consumers can do in an automobile. Sampson brought up multiple valid issues, like the ability to have simultaneously paired BlueTooth connections, read emails and accomplish more on long commutes, and contrasted the general sorry state of current infotainment systems. It should be noted established automakers and tech companies are working on that stuff too.
Yet the majority of the presentation we did manage to get out of the new company was all about the technology of the car, like the battery platform with the “bread-like” expandable battery columns, and the variability in the electric motors, which Sampson seemed genuinely excited to talk about at later points in the interview.
We know they’ve designed a car, and now we want to know more about it—and that’s what Faraday is failing to provide.
Burns: This was your big unveiling. You guys have been hyped for months! This was like a blockbuster movie.
Sampson [Referencing the Apple Watch on his wrist]: How many days before it was launched did you see one of these?
Burns: But [that] is from the most successful company in the world. You’re an unknown.
Sampson: So do we need to show anything?
It is at this point in the interview (around 9:30) I’m surprised someone didn’t run on stage and drag Sampson away. To keep it simple, yes, as a brand new company with no successes to back you up, after months of hype, and comparing your brand and your product to Apple and the first iPhone, you better damn well show us your “iPhone.”
Even after the interviewer highlighted Alex Roy’s praise on The Drive of a supposed sneak peek at the van-like concept Faraday Future has teased in its marketing, Sampson simply refused to accept the praise and give in at all, instead fighting the only complement (aside from The Verge) the brand has received after its CES reveal.
What bothers me the most about this ultra-smug “we can’t tell you but trust us it’s better than everything” attitude from FF is that I truly believe they may have something. I don’t know if it will be successful, but I feel like they have the capital and the team of credentials to make at least a functioning concept, so it’s alarming to see them fight so hard against the only thing going for them, which apparently is this mystery car.
Perhaps the VP of Research and Development shouldn’t be the brand spokesperson when it begins to seem like there’s been no Development.
The latter half of the interview gets into the new billion dollar factory in North Las Vegas and the investors, or partners, of Faraday Future, including LeTV, which is the “Netflix of China” that also develops software and hardware technologies. Sampson seemed much more in his element discussing the business side of operations.
One of the hallmarks of Faraday Future is we’re a little bit mysterious and secretive about what we’re doing, so just wait and see!
I get the impression that Faraday Future wanted to come out and be that mysterious new car company that was going to Get Shit Done™ and change the way we think about automobiles and all that great stuff. And they had succeeded right up to the moment they hyped the big reveal, and then gave us nothing.
I’m ready to see the Faraday Future car. And we all thought we might get it until January 4th. Now I’m not so sure.
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