Do you remember Faraday Future? Last time we were talking about it, it was getting $225 million for one more go at this whole “making a car” thing. Before that, there were furloughs, a near bankruptcy, and some lawsuits. Now, it has a new CEO, the man who gave us the BMW i8 and co-founded Byton. Will he be the man to save Faraday?
Sorry that question is rhetorical. Carsten Breitfeld, the CEO, will not be saving Faraday. But it’s fun to imagine that he might, while we still can. Breitfeld is certainly optimistic.
Per The Verge:
“I am thrilled to accept the role of CEO and look forward to powering FF to its next stage of success,” said Breitfeld in a statement. “One of the main reasons I joined FF was [founder Jia Yueting] and his vision for how the mobility eco-system will transform the industry, and FF’s industry-leading products and technology, as well as their recently-implemented global partnership program.
Breitfeld also said he and Jia had discussed bringing him over to the company in the past. “I appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit and admire his vision of successfully predicting the future mobility ecosystem,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur myself, I feel that I am in a better position to understand his unremitting efforts and contributions in pursuing his dream.”
Breitfeld is actually a pretty natural fit at Faraday, having spent a few years leading Byton, the start-up that wanted to be the anti-Tesla. Breitfeld left Byton in April for a job at a different Chinese startup. That news was surprising insomuch as Byton, for awhile there, seemed to have a good thing going. The company had its own startup woes but it also at least a coherent vision of who it was (a company that loves screens) and where it was going; you know, actually putting a car in production.
Faraday Future lacks both of those things, making this sort of a lateral move downward for Breitfeld. It has a car, the FF91, and a design for that car, which is farther than 90 percent of startup automakers get, but it has seemingly no plan or money to build that car at volume. The company had announced plans for a $1 billion plant in the Nevada desert before halting construction in 2017 amid cash woes.
Back then, the company said it still hoped to get the FF91 in production by 2018, but that didn’t happen. There’s a base level of chaos that comes with any startup, but especially at Faraday, in large part because of its accidental billionaire founder, Jia Yueting. The company once employed almost 1,500 people but is now down to a few hundred, per The Verge.
Faraday Future is still hundreds of millions of dollars short of being able to get the FF91 into production. The startup recently signed a deal with a Chinese mobile gaming company to produce electric minivans in China, though the timetable of that deal (and any potential investment resulting from it) has already slipped.
A separate deal with Chicago financial firm Birch Lake Partners has led to the restructuring that is currently underway. Faraday Future has said the restructuring effort will include an effort by Jia to repay his massive debts in China, where both he and his failed tech conglomerate LeEco owe millions of dollars to a long list of creditors.
“In addition, [Jia] is officially establishing a debt repayment trust to provide a thorough solution of his remaining debts and has made it a priority to repay them as quickly as he can,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I gave up everything to make sure FF will succeed, and to fully repay my remaining guarantor debt as soon as possible, and ultimately to realize the dream of revolutionizing the automotive industry,” Jia added.
Breitfeld knows all of this, and I’m sure he’s getting paid decently. But I’d be shocked if Faraday is still around in five years, or even in one year, whereas I’m (reasonably) confident Byton will be, given that its funding seems more stable.
That Faraday, founded in 2014, has lasted this long is its own sort of miracle.