It’s like something out of a science-fiction movie: A shadowy high-tech company with a seemingly unlimited war chest appears out of the ether and starts building a multi-billion dollar manufacturing complex in the desert. It begins poaching luminaries from some of the most advanced companies in the world to design and build its products, and promises that they’ll be on sale — and changing our lives — not in a few years, but in a matter of months. Its name? Faraday Future.
Here’s what we know: Faraday Future was founded in Los Angeles in 2014, with Nick Sampson — who was in on the ground floor at Tesla — serving as the face of the company. In the months since, it’s hired over 400 workers from companies as diverse as Apple, GM, SpaceX, Tesla, Ferrari, and BMW, including Richard Kim, the man behind BMW’s i-Series cars. It gets most of its financial backing from Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, founder of LeTV, and plans to have its first electric car out in 2017. It’s building a $1 billion manufacturing plant north of Las Vegas — just miles from Tesla’s Gigafactory — and just last week secured an additional $335 million in incentives from the Nevada state government.
What we also know: Established automakers, with their massive R&D departments, vast dealership and parts supply networks, and long-established reputations for hundreds of millions of consumers, can take over five years and more than $6 billion to develop a new car from scratch. Faraday Future may have deep pockets for a startup, but for an automaker, its goals seem optimistic at best, especially for delivering its first product in less than 24 months. Still, it’s promising a look at its first Richard Kim-penned vehicle at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and just got its big vote of confidence from the Silver State. A lot of buzz-worthy auto startups ready to change the world have come and gone over the past decade, so our big question is this: Is Faraday Future for real?
In November, The Verge published a profile on Faraday Future, becoming the best glimpse we’ve had into the shadowy company. Like Tesla, it has the potential to be disruptive to the auto industry. Unlike it’s neighbor, however, the startup isn’t following any tried-and-true automotive model. Think of Tesla, Google’s autonomous car program, Apple’s will-they-or-won’t-they car project, and Uber — Faraday Future seems to lie somewhere in between all of them. In the profile, Sampson elaborates on the “future” in Faraday Future:
As soon as you get in your car, you lose that level of connectivity. Today’s cars aren’t meeting the needs of today’s people, let alone generations yet to come. The kids of tomorrow will be wanting to be connected all the time … If I plan my journey, the car should know my journey and some of the places I want to visit along the way, because it knows my preferences … The car should begin to learn my desires, and not just me as owner or user, but the people who are with me. It should be a much more social event to be in the car, to interact with people inside and outside the car.
But everyone from GM to Google is working on inter-connectivity, smarter cars, and a post-driving future. Faraday Future is looking even farther, to a post-ownership world. “Uber, for instance, is a new way of traveling, a new way of getting about. Some people are considering not even having a car. The cars of the future have got to meet those needs,” Sampson says, “I don’t have to buy one compromise vehicle, I can just have use of the perfect model when I need it, like a subscription service. We now subscribe to music; we used to buy music.”
Richard Kim is even more hesitant to acknowledge it as a car. “It’s a car to some degree,” he says, adding, “It’s a mobility device, and when people interact with cars, there is of course the irrational desire to have it. The car is still going to be beautiful, as traditional car designers want to have.”
So Faraday Future’s “cars” will be beautiful, autonomous, able to learn its “owner’s” preferences and destinations, able to be exchanged for other models, likely electric, possibly subscription-based, and here before we know it. It may cost billions to develop a modern car, but the way Faraday Future is operating, it seems like it’s been able to write the rule book as it goes along. We’re sure to know more after CES next month, but for now, all we can do is scratch our heads and try to make sense of what’s going on out in the desert, just like everyone else.
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