I decided to illustrate this story with pictures of flowers, because it will give you something nicer to look at than the ultra-vague teaser shots issued by Faraday Future, the mysterious electric car company that’s building ( with plentiful state money) a billion-dollar factory in financially strapped North Las Vegas.
Faraday issues tweets and videos, but they all say nothing. Take a look at this:
So much of the future depends on how we get there. Come with us. https://t.co/2OaZWecNpU
— Faraday Future (@FaradayFuture) December 22, 2015
I gotta say, I’m inspired by statements like, “What if you didn’t so much own a car as use one, whenever you needed it.” Didn’t dozens of car-sharing companies already come up with that one? And video of the car’s shadow against a concrete barrier also adds a lot of insight.
The company’s executives (some poached from Tesla) are talking — a little. Page Beerman, former creative director at BMW design, told DuJour, “The automobile has gone through a hundred years of iterative design. It’s become baroque, very frilly and overstated. We want to back off from that to simplify things and really look at what the pure experience is. We want this to be the first car where you actually feel better after sitting in traffic for two hours.”
Isn’t that what they say about the Tesla Model S?
A rose is a rose is ... not a Faraday. (Photo: sunny_mjx)/flickr
According to Jalopnik, most of Faraday’s seemingly inexhaustible financial reserves come from Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, who’s #17 on the China Rich List in 2017, with a reported $7.8 billion. He made his money as chairman of Leshi TV, a popular and growing online video site in China (triple growth in the past year). Yueting also set up Sinotel, a wireless telecom company that went public in 2008. Yes, there are certain parallels to Elon Musk — it’s not just that “Faraday” name, and the plan to build an electric supercar that will change the world.
But Faraday, which now has more than 400 employees, will also be spending public money. It got $335 million in state incentives. Remember, Tesla is also building its $4 billion gigafactory in Nevada, and it got $1.3 billion in subsidies from the taxpayers.
I was curious to see what Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, had to say about all this. "We're proud of our mining, we're proud of our gaming, we're proud of all those anchor tenants that we've had in our state," he said at the announcement. "But the world's changing. And I know that you agree with me that we're not going to let it pass us by."
OK, so the state invested in change and the future. And the building of a mysterious vehicle, or maybe multiple vehicles, with 4,500 promised jobs attached. State politicians need the feel-good headlines, because North Las Vegas is, by any standard, a mess.
North Las Vegas, in all its financially strapped splendor. (Photo: Lawrence's Lenses/Flickr)
“Nevada’s fourth-biggest city by population has been on life support for years, relying on siphoning money from its utility fund to balance its general fund budget to the tune of at least $200 million in recent years … In 2011, there was serious talk of the state taking over the debt-ridden city — under Nevada law municipalities can’t declare bankruptcy — as record home foreclosures gave it the look of an abandoned metropolis where vibrant life and rapid growth had bloomed for a decade.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for electric cars, and the talent converging on North Las Vegas can certainly build something great. But I wish they’d stop issuing bulletins with zero content. I hope the state, at least, got to lift the curtain on the car before signing on the dotted line.
A slight digression. In 2006, I co-wrote a New York Times article about a plan to build high-performance vehicles under the venerable AC Cars name (remember the Shelby Cobra?) at a factory in down-at-the-mouth Bridgeport, Connecticut. The state pledged a $1.5 million secured loan. But our article raised multiple questions about AC’s owner, and the deal fell through. Faraday isn’t AC Cars, so let’s assume — optimistically — that the due diligence was done.
The long-suffering public, you and me, may finally get to see a Faraday without draperies at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 4. In another cryptic comment, the company said, “What if the back seat was the new front seat?” Does that mean the Faraday will, like forthcoming Teslas, drive itself? Maybe. Whatever. Let’s hope the clouds part next month.