At this year’s CES, troubled electric car startup Faraday Future presented itself as the company that would usher in “the next generation of sustainable luxury mobility.” But even though it finally unveiled its first car to the world, the FF91, the company keeps tripping over its own feet as it attempts to move past its problems and enter production. Sources tell The Verge that FF is still hemorrhaging top engineering talent. Meanwhile, suppliers keep suing FF for unpaid bills. And now Reuters is reporting that the stalled $1 billion factory in the Nevada desert has been seriously downsized.
FF had originally planned to construct a 3-million-square-foot plant outside the city of North Las Vegas. But construction stalled last year as FF’s funds dried up. Now the company’s main contractor says the facility will only be 650,000 square feet, or one quarter the size of the original plan. A spokesperson for FF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This move to scale back production will also impact the number of cars FF planned to produce. Sources tell Reuters that the Gardena, California-based startup will now pare back its portfolio from seven vehicles to two. The smaller facility is also expected to bring down the annual production rate from 100,000 to 10,000, according to Electrek. FF is searching for contractors to begin work on the shell of its promised factory, but has no firm date for completion.
The news of the downsized factory comes as senior staff continue to depart. Umran Ashraf, who was engineering director for FF’s vehicle structures and exteriors division, has left to join a company founded by former FF employees called Romeo Power, a source told The Verge (and confirmed by Ashraf’s LinkedIn page). According to the source, Ashraf took several other FF engineers with him when he left to take the position as vice president of engineering at Romeo Power, which makes battery technology for electric cars.
A separate source said that Lucid Motors, a rival Menlo Park-based electric car startup, has fielded several resumes from FF employees looking to jump ship. Lucid Motors shares an investor with FF, LeEco founder and Chinese tech billionaire Jia Yueting. But unlike FF, where he is the main investor, Jia only holds a minority stake in Lucid.
The LeEco CEO is the main investor and driving force behind FF. But he is also spearheading a separate electric car effort at LeEco and has forced FF’s engineering talent to run it. This, former employees say, has hamstrung FF’s efforts and deepened its financial woes.
“I just keep thinking about when I was there finding about their setup, how the money was being handled, and the other car making efforts... and I remember saying to someone, ‘How are they going to pay for all of this?’” a former executive told The Verge.
The question now, however, is whether FF’s plans to scale back production will put it in a better position, or whether its financial situation is irrevocable. The company certainly wowed plenty of people with the FF91. FF claims to have collected 64,124 reservations in the 36 hours after the FF91 was unveiled. Some of those reservations include a $5,000 refundable deposit, but FF won’t say how many people submitted deposits. It could be a lot, or none.
“The scale is rather unimportant in light of what it takes to build a factory AND all of the expenses bringing a car to market,” the former executive told The Verge. “The first car would have to be an absolute blockbuster — and theirs is not. Showrooms, charging stations, experiential events... there's lots of money needed to do this right.”
The source added, “Tesla is the gold standard,” yet even Elon Musk’s much-hyped electric car company has found the perfect car to keep it “out of the red.”
Update, February 3rd, 4:14pm ET: A spokesperson for FF sent a statement insisting that the company was moving “forward with a multi-stage manufacturing strategy.” When exactly? All he would say was “soon.”
“Faraday Future remains committed to the State of Nevada and our $1B investment in the region over the next few years,” he added.