It’s not easy to launch a new car brand. You can’t just give it a name, tell people your plans for world domination and then sit back and watch the money roll in. As the likes of Fisker, Cizeta-Moroder and various iterations of TVR will tell you, it just doesn’t work like that.
And yet, as electricity and hydrogen become realistic means of propulsion, it’s not stopping people having a go. We are, of course, talking about Faraday Future, the bright, shiny new brand that’s going to, ahem, ‘reformat’ the automotive industry and be rivalling Tesla as soon as 2018. That’s next year.
We reported some details of the proposed FF91, the company’s first car that aims to beat even the fastest Tesla in the 0-60mph sprint. By all of 0.01 seconds. But a premature claim on an acceleration record isn’t really enough when it comes to making a commercial success of the idea.
Nor is technology that doesn’t work. At CES the automated parking system failed to work on stage, leaving Faraday Future’s Senior Vice President Nick Sampson hanging like a fish on a hook. Awkward. The apparent lack of progress since the car’s original debut to Western journalists back in October, where the system had also failed, should sound an alarm bell or two.
Obvious comparisons are going to be made with Tesla, but according to several reports, it’s likely that even if Faraday Future survives 2017, there just won’t be enough money to pay the bills beyond that, let alone produce the fastest-accelerating car in the world.
Tesla is backed by a man who’s often called a genius, and a corporation with enough money to bankroll the operation…or at least mostly. The company’s recent backtrack on its lifetime free electricity pledge is all the proof you need that even Tesla is struggling to make too much money out of fast electric cars.
Then there’s news emerging via The Register, which seems to reveal that the Chinese man whose money is backing Faraday Future, called Jia Yueting, is having second thoughts. The Faraday project is draining cash faster than it’s being made in his company’s other businesses, which more than likely means terrifying sums of money are involved.
The promised billion-dollar factory in Nevada has apparently been abandoned part-way through construction, with what looks suspiciously like a direct replacement now being built in China. At around the same time, writes The Verge, senior staff began jumping ship from the company. Ding Lei, the company’s effective CEO, decided among others that he’d seen enough. The remaining leaders are staying defiant, it appears, reports Jalopnik.
With all this turmoil in the background it’s difficult to picture a successful future for Faraday, if you’ll forgive the pun. After all, it took Tesla 14 years to get to a point where it can build a reliable, intelligent, part-automated mainstream electric car, and even now the firm is still plagued by odd gremlins. So for Faraday to do it before the end of next year? That’s pure fantasy.
To launch a car or technology brand and make it succeed, you need great ideas, mountains of money and even more patience. In a world where instant is a continuing buzzword, the latter is likely to be in even shorter supply than the cash.
Faraday might be making the headlines in the short term, but don’t bet on a full production FF91 ever being built unless Jia Yueting comes up with new investment and sets the schedule back at least a decade. Will he have the patience? Probably not. Which begs the question: why bother in the first place?