First, there was a delayed start. This was followed by big promises, impressive numbers and a concept car–esque production model. Then, a glitch halted proceedings. Cue stilted marketing-speak in an attempt to salvage the situation. Another awkward stumble shortly after, more (redundant) marketing language, and then it was all over.
That sequence of events was a recap of Faraday Future’s official launch from last night at CES, but could easily be a summation of the automotive startup’s own timeline since its 2014 inception, provided it’s not all over for the company just yet.
Last night’s proceedings eventually began after a few minutes of futuristic synth music. The live stream countdown had to be reset; then it hit 00:00:00 a second time before Faraday Future SVP of R&D and Engineering Nick Sampson finally trotted out onstage. Sampson was eager to make the point that nascent company Faraday Future isn’t beholden to the old ways of the aging automotive industry. It is “unencumbered by corporate history,” and doesn’t “have to follow outdated practices or retrofit existing products.”
Since his presentation leaned heavily on themes of progress and #disruption, it was obvious Sampson was going to steer clear of mentioning that production was halted in November at the Nevada plant because the company is late on million-dollar payments to its general contractor, AECOM. Or the fact that stock owned by Faraday Future’s main Chinese billionaire backer, Jia Yueting, has plummeted. Or that the company’s “global CEO” jumped ship last week.
Still, all that in the past two years, and Faraday Future still managed to get their proposed production car on the stage at CES — just barely. What looked like a pre-production model demonstrated an autonomous valet parking job, and to its credit, it did very well, even backing into the space. There was talk of connectivity capabilities linking all your devices at home and in the car through wi-fi and advanced artificial intelligence, but never a demonstration of any of it. They did semi-recreate the recent 0–60 test video by launching a Bentley Bentayga, Ferrari 488, Tesla Model X and S across the stage, one at a time, followed by another pre-production FF91, proving nothing other than that these are indeed cars, and they go forward quickly. Faraday Future does claim the FF91 will go 0–60 in 2.39 seconds and has a peak output of 1,050 horsepower, while its direct competitor can only manage 0–60 in 2.5 seconds and makes do with 760 horsepower.
Eventually, the production FF91 made its way to the stage and Yueting stepped out. He then hit the “Auto Valet” button on the car door, which should’ve prompted the FF91 to go to center stage as if it were parking in a home garage. The FF91 just sat there, silent, like the crowd. Pivoting, Yueting spoke about his involvement for a minute or two, then stage lights were dimmed and Sampson tried again to prompt the FF91 off the stage. After a long pause, the car did start moving, but stopped just off center stage. Sampson improvised a little, talking about the design and keyless entry and moved on to how a refundable (I should hope so) $5,000 deposit will reserve an FF91, in March, for a 2018 delivery (maybe).
I would like to be hopeful for Faraday Future and what they’re trying to create, but so far nothing they’ve done inspires confidence. A former FF employee has been quoted saying that “if CES goes badly, it’s all over.” You would have to have some pretty low standards to say that it went well. I doubt even someone like Elon Musk, who has openly welcomed competition in the segment to drive the market and who was apparently in the crowd last night, is rushing to put down that deposit.