There’s never a shortage of auto industry startups, but a new one shrouded in mystery is having its media moment — in a big way.
Faraday Future, as it is called, is taking shape in a Los Angeles suburb, with a $1-billion promise to “take a user-centric, technology-first approach to vehicle design with the ultimate aim of connecting the automotive experience to the rest of your life.” In other words, it wants to take on electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors.
What sets this electric-vehicle venture apart is its promised billion-dollar investment. the lack of information about who exactly is backing the project and that it arrives right as tech industry observers scan for any clue as to computer giant Apple’s plans to field an electric car of its own.
If Faraday is fronting for Apple — the subject of speculation in at least one prominent media post — then it’s doing so in plain sight. Faraday has a well-developed web site, is issuing press releases and touting that four of its vice presidents are veterans of Tesla..
Faraday is even trying to set up a competition among states for the factory that it says it will build, saying California, Nevada, Georgia and Louisiana are in the mix for a “phase-one investment.”
Big claims are nothing new when it comes to automotive startups. But few ever make it. The list of failures among high-tech automakers in the past decade alone include electric or hybrid-car makers Think, Aptera Motors, Coda and Fisker Automotive.
But few have ever merited the kind of attention that has gone to Faraday in the past four days. It started with media reports like the one from the Wall Street Journal, reacting to the press release about its $1-billion plans, and finding executives coy about naming the source of its funds.
The Los Angeles Timesmoved the story farther Friday, playing Faraday’s emergence at the top of its front page and digging into the company’s incorporation papers through the California Secretary of State to find the company is linked to Jia Yueting, a Chinese tech billionaire. The Times says the papers show one of his lieutenants as Faraday’s chief executive.
But it also paints Faraday as no small, typically under-financed operation. It says that it has 400 employees and is operating from the highrise once occupied by the U.S. headquarters of Nissan in Gardena, south of Los Angeles.
“With energy constraints, urban crowding, and the increasingly intrinsic relationship we have with technology, today’s cars simply do not meet today’s needs,” said Nick Sampson, Faraday’s senior vice president in the statement issued Thursday. “Our range of 100% electric and intelligent vehicles will offer seamless connectivity to the outside world.”
Sampson is identified by Faraday as being the former director of vehicle & chassis engineering for Tesla. Faraday also says it has landed Tesla’s former director of manufacturing, human resources and supply management.
Faraday also appears to borrow something else from Tesla: The origin of its name. Just as Tesla is named for Nikola Tesla of alternating-current fame, Faraday to have chosen a name that takes from another pioneer in the development of electricity, Michael Faraday researched electrical fields.
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