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Tesla Car Will Meet A Very Strong Competitor
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On a recent December afternoon, the California headquarters of the secretive electric car company Faraday Future buzzed with activity. Hundreds of engineers and designers, many of them veterans of the automobile and technology industries, bustled about the former Nissan factory.
Faraday Future bills itself as more than just a car company. In the words of its head of corporate affairs, it wants to sell a “virtual ecosystem,” which it defines in vague terms.
But exactly what kind of company Faraday Future is becomes less clear as new information emerges about its business operations. Over the past three weeks, several scathing news reports revealed the company’s instability, outlining unpaid bills, hundreds of millions of dollars in unaccounted liabilities, and a wave of staff departures.
In two weeks, the company will unveil its first production vehicle at CES in Las Vegas. The stakes are high for Faraday Future, which has had an unusually tumultuous year for such a young company. A year ago, Faraday Future (or FF as it prefers) emerged from out of nowhere, backed by a lot of Chinese money and promising big, world-changing things. The company’s roster boasted a who’s-who of employees from Apple, Tesla, Ferrari, and BMW. It also suggested a novel approach to car ownership, hinting at a sort of subscription model, where users could call up different kinds of self-driving electric vehicles depending on their needs.
But since then, FF has experienced a series of public setbacks. The company flubbed its big CES debut a year ago, unveiling a static, Batmobile-like concept car instead of the production-ready electric vehicle it had promised. Construction on its $1 billion Nevada factory was delayed. Several high-level staffers jumped ship.
Monthly stipends from the company’s main investor, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, have dried up. And a distracting, and competing, side project by Jia’s company LeEco, has led some employees to question which company they’re really working for. FF describes Jia as a strategic partner, but one ex-employee told The Verge the relationship was more like “indentured servitude.”
Against the deluge of bad press, FF invited The Verge to take a behind-the-scenes look as the company prepared for CES on the condition that the tour would focus on research and design, and no business-related questions would be answered. The Verge asked anyway, and the company’s executives shed some light on the company, largely in glowing terms about their ties to Jia and LeEco.
Phone interviews with a half-dozen former employees attest to the mismanagement described in other recent reports. The Verge has learned that the company’s financial situation is dire and mounting debts, unpaid bills, supplier lawsuits, and financial mismanagement have all served to chip away at Faraday Future’s foundation. In addition, these sources revealed to The Verge that the company’s intellectual property is not owned by FF, but by a separate entity named FF Cayman Global, a revelation which raises questions about Faraday Future’s relationship with its investors and suppliers, and could further endanger the company’s success.
FF’s expansive headquarters is located in a former Nissan factory on a nondescript block in Gardena, California, just south of metro Los Angeles. The Verge was invited to tour the offices, as well as the design studio and the company’s pilot factory, where it builds its prototypes. FF planned to give a similar tour to Motor Trend, which first broke the story of the secretive company’s existence back in mid-2015, at a later date. FF’s press office said the tour was “strictly” about technology and not business — though Nick Sampson, the company’s senior vice president of engineering, did answer some business-related questions at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour tour.
No photography or video was permitted — before the tour began, an employee placed yellow stickers over my iPhone’s cameras. It was a balmy December afternoon in LA and outside the company’s headquarters, many FF employees sat at outdoor picnic tables and nibbled on lunches provided by the company. The parking lot was filled to capacity, a clear sign of a startup on a hiring spree.

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