Originally published on CleanTechnica.
Last week, the electric vehicle community was buzzing about a mystery Tesla competitor that was going to whoop the Model S into shape and finally give Tesla some competition. Reactions and perspectives ranged from claims of vaporware to the company being a front for Apple (which now seems unlikely as we’ll unpack below).
The speculation originated from an announcement from new EV contender Faraday Future regarding its plans to invest $1 billion into a new EV factory that would compete as an equal with Tesla. This sounds revolutionary and, by itself, would be a major investment into the EV space, but it also raised a lot of questions. First and foremost — how are they investing so much money into something when they don’t even have a concept car? Other questions quickly followed — why are they being so secretive about who their CEO is? Why haven’t they announced who’s backing them financially? Have they bitten off more than they can handle?
Naturally, everyone dusted off their shovels and started digging. Digging into the big factory announcement; digging into the staff, which was curiously full of talent sniped from Tesla; digging into their funding; their building; the number of employees… and as the holes deepened, similarities started appearing. One of the first major scores was via the LA Times, when its journalists uncovered the secretive funding source responsible for giving life to Faraday in the first place:
“The company declined to identify its ownership and investors, but a review of incorporation papers filed with the California secretary of state’s office links Faraday to a Chinese media company operated by Jia Yueting, an entrepreneur who founded Leshi Internet Information & Technology.”
One discovery led to another, and after further investigation, the identity of Faraday Future’s CEO was revealed as well. After being confronted with the evidence, Faraday confirmed this key building block as well, unravelling the mystery one thread at a time…
“Faraday spokeswoman Stacy Morris confirmed that Chaoying Deng is the chief executive but said that she wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the auto company.”
Leshi Internet Information & Technology (aka LeTV) is owned by Chinese Billionaire Jia Yueting, who has personally expressed an interest in manufacturing EVs as a way to combat the rampant smog in China (something we covered back in December 2014). What’s interesting to me is that he has made his money on LeTV, which is relatively small ($12 billion market cap, 5,000 employees). In fact, comparing all of LeTV to Tesla, TSLA’s market cap is more than double that (today) at $30.1 billion, with 12,000 employees. It’s not a matter of who has the most money but rather a comparison of who has the most assets, the most trained employees for the task at hand, the most stable supply chain, and really, the most experience making and delivering electric cars, and thus, the most right to step up and not just talk about changing the world — but to actually do it. It’s also worth noting that they are investing a large chunk of their business assets and people into this venture. This means they have a lot more to lose and a much steeper uphill battle to fight to design, develop, and deliver EVs to paying customers.
So, what does all this mean? These facts have been floating around the ‘net for a few days now… so what? Well, we took those key details and dug backwards. Working our way up that tangled skein through all its twists and turns until we found it. You see… Faraday Future has been hiding in plain sight. Their big secret is critical because if everyone realized that they actually “came out” back in August after initially being announced in January, this whole Faraday Future thing might look like what it actually is — a Chinese company slapping a “made (and designed) in America (sorta)” marketing package on top of an average Chinese car company. The reality is that we broke the news over on sister site Gas2 way back in August with funding, backstory, concept drawings… but at the time, we were still calling it “LeTV.” Sound familiar? Yup, me too.
While Faraday Future is less of a mystery today than yesterday and less yesterday than last week, there’s no guarantee that what they are doing will work. They seem to like playing the mystery card to stir up media buzz, but that’s one that doesn’t recycle well as people will eventually just stop listening.
On that note, I’ll stop talking and leave you with the LeTV concept car drawings… aka Faraday Future’s concept car. It sure sounds sexier than “another Chinese Tesla Model S knock off,” doesn’t it?:
Editor’s Note: As Cynthia discussed in that December 2014 article about Jia Yueting, the relatively young billionaire has some traits clearly in common with Elon Musk. From his tech interests to entrepreneurial gifts to willingness (eagerness?) to take risks to concern for societal problems like air pollution, he seems to have the general chemistry needed to get an electric car startup off the ground. But will everything fall in place as dreamed?