If modesty and humility are so yesterday and virtues leading to success today include hype and more of it, Faraday Future may be off to a great start.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday, the California startup continued to drop names of successful companies from which it’s hired employees, it showed a fantasy hypercar no one can buy, and said it will be the next Apple for transportation.
“You don’t need a 100-year legacy in the automotive industry to define what the next generation of transportation needs to look and feel like,” said Senior VP Nick Sampson noting his announcement came on the nine-year anniversary month of the first iPhone.
Faraday will do for cars what the iPhone did for cell phones, he said, though “FF” was formed just 18 months ago and has neither shown nor sold any working product. Is that arrogance, or just a properly developed sense of confidence and self esteem?
That’s to be determined, but factual is its modus operandi since coming out of stealth mode in July has been in-your-face boastfulness while withholding many details on its actual product and business plans. This may be deliberately calculated to keep media and the public dazzled, and for all anyone knows, all its high-falutin talk may prove to be perfectly justified.
Its first vehicle concept meanwhile is a resume builder, an exercise in brand imaging starting at the top.
The all-electric FFZERO1 does have a great spec sheet too: 1,000 horsepower, four motors, one seat, a smartphone in the steering wheel, 0-60 in under 2.3 seconds, top speed over 200 mph. Oh also, its actual 0-60 time is forever and they could have just as well said top speed was 300, as the refugee from a Playstation game is for all intents and purposes a rolling statue.
But knowing the audience would want to see proof of it running, it did attempt to oblige. Lights were dimmed and shown was what is tantamount to a 21st century cartoon – a computer generated video of the amazing vehicle designed to provoke envy in your inner adolescent teenager. Cool!
Substance Behind the Smoke
Predictably, the Internet on Tuesday was replete with jaded views and skeptical commentary from readers and writers alike.
“The hype level was off the charts,” wrote one publication.
“Everyone thinks of this as a vaporware exercise,” said one of numerous skeptical reader comments.
Possibly the most unconvincing trait of all Faraday has said and done so far could be summed up in that it has not spelled out enough to satisfy today’s spoon-fed infotainment loving public.
People want a sufficiently believable story and Faraday has merely dangled some of the over-the-top narrative while leaving gaping holes before a public which has seen blowhards come and go before.
But while this article also starts off commenting on Faraday’s plausibility deficit, other observers did pick up on a congruent-enough presentation to buy into the storyline and give benefit of the doubt.
Such positively disposed observers are saying to dismiss Faraday Future would be premature, and the company has captured the imagination of those who are inclined to hope it can pull off its stated goal of revolutionizing transportation.
Following are a few reasons why Faraday Future may be aptly named, and why for all the bait thrown for the jaded to bite into and spit out, there’s enough substance to say the jury remains out.
Variable Platform Architecture
Faraday’s FFZERO1 was never presented as its solution for society’s needs.
A car like that, if it ever were produced, would be very limited production, but Faraday is setting up for far more volume.
The hypercar’s actual purpose as stated by former-BMW i3 and i8 designer and now Faraday Head of Design Richard Kim, is merely to show the extreme end of what can be done on Faraday’s modular chassis architecture.
“The FFZERO1 Concept is an amplified version of the design and engineering philosophies informing FF’s forthcoming production vehicles,” said Kim. “This project liberated our designers and inspired new approaches for vehicle forms, proportions and packaging that we can apply to our upcoming production models.”
This platform design borrows from GM’s skateboard chassis developed from the early 2000s for hydrogen fuel cell concepts, which Tesla has also borrowed, and now Faraday says it’s been perfected in its hands.
Faraday is working on far more ordinary vehicles to put atop the modular chassis which can be stretched, shrunken, and supports all-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive, and rear-wheel drive configurations. It, said both Kim and Sampson, can be the basis for a sports car, a crossover, a minivan, a coupe, a sedan, a truck, nearly anything.
“What we’ve announced illustrates the strength of our team, vision, partnerships and speed. We’re a forward-thinking company focused on the future of mobility, but we also share a passion for driving and performance,” said Sampson. “On our platform, electric vehicles will not only deliver on sustainability, but will be seamlessly connected and exhilarating to drive.”
While modular chassis are not new, he said, this one plus a digital design process with augmented and virtual reality tools, parametric design, and 3D printing lets FF speedily put new vehicles on the road at substantial savings to cost and time.
Not only was it suggested Faraday will run circles around traditional automakers bogged in slow and costly development cycles, it also says it will deliver superlative quality vehicles and be far faster on its feet than Tesla.
Sampson noted Tesla took over a decade to get where it is now, and 18-month-old Faraday is hiring faster than Tesla was when it was one-and-a-half-years old, and not in danger of going bankrupt.
Already it has 750 employees, is hiring from companies like SpaceX, Apple, Ford, Lotus, Jaguar, Tesla, GM, and even the U.S. government.
A 3-million square foot $1 billion factory in North Las Vegas due to break ground within weeks promises to be a great place to work for 4,500 employees to be ultimately hired, and this, as Faraday said, is very “fast” just like its product development process.
How’s this happening? While the state of Nevada is in for $335 million in combined aid, assistance is not so much coming from the U.S. government, but rather interests emanating from China.
As previously reported, Faraday announced a strategic cooperation with Letv, also known as the Netflix of China.
This partnership, said Faraday, will “enable it to benefit from Letv’s expertise in content and technology. The two companies will build advanced electric vehicles by bringing together resources from the following four domains: technology, automotive, internet and cloud, and entertainment content.”
Two Years To Prove Itself
Faraday has said it will rapidly build the Nevada factory and be turning out product by 2017. If this goal is as “aspirational” as its FFZERO1 concept, or it can bring it to pass is unknown.
Sampson has also said multiple products will be on U.S. roads by 2020, and whether people buy into what it says or not, it appears it is carrying out its plans poste-haste.
Among a laundry list of unstated details people want to know – including if it has an acting CEO – is when Faraday may choose to showcase a car ordinary people may buy at a price ordinary people can afford.
And while it presents itself in grand terms completely lacking in any sense of full disclosure or transparency, ultimately more will be known.
It will be impossible to be a self-proclaimed world changer, and hidden in a corner indefinitely. Further, it’s been said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.
And with its first big splash on the world stage, the clock is now ticking.