Start-up automaker Faraday Future unveiled its first commercial electric vehicle at the technology industry’s annual CES convention on Tuesday as the Los Angeles company grapples with skeptics who question whether it has the financial means to bring the vehicle to market.
Faraday Future has endured its share of criticism, beginning at last year’s CES when the much-hyped company showed images of a Batmobile-esque vehicle that wasn’t designed for actual use. Since then, the company has seen several leaders depart and temporarily suspended construction on its production facility.
Amid these challenges, the company rolled out an electric vehicle, called the FF91, that is slated to ship starting in 2018. The price was not disclosed, but customers can reserve the car today for a $5,000 refundable fee.
“If you look at all the other signals at Faraday right now, it still looks like more of a long shot for launch,” said Jeff Schuster, an analyst with LCM Automotive.
The FF91 possesses features becoming increasingly common among high-end electric vehicles. It has a 130-kilowatt battery that can drive 378 milers on a single charge, the company said, which would make the car’s battery among the most durable on the market today.
The FF91 also integrates artificial intelligence and other smart technologies to anticipate the needs of its occupants. The car promises to unlock when it detects the driver’s smartphone nearby and to find its own parking space even after the driver exits the vehicle. (Faraday Future showed two demos of the valet parking technology on Tuesday, one appeared to work and one did not.)
“There is quite a bit of advanced technology and engineering that is involved in the vehicle itself. On the surface the vehicle certainly has quite a bit to offer,” Schuster said.
The design of the FF91 doesn’t fit neatly in any of the traditional automotive categories. The shape of the body resembles a sedan, yet the car sits higher off the ground similar to a small SUV. It’s ability to reach 60 miles per hour in an advertised 2.39 seconds suggests it has the guts of a sports car. (Tesla’s Model S requires 2.5 seconds comparatively.)
“We’re not conservative. We’re not predictable. Disruption is what drives us in every facet of our business,” said Nick Sampson, the senior vice president of research and development. “It pushes us to design what others call impossible, to create things that have yet to exist, and to engineer technology with purpose, intention and impact.”
The reveal was starkly different from the company’s event at CES last year, when it showcased a vehicle that had just one seat, an oxygen mask for the driver, and no trunk space. Analysts said at the time that the impractical concept car was merely about grabbing attention, and the onus was on Faraday to deliver something to truly watch.
Since then, the company has struggled with key executives departures and doubts that it could afford a $1 billion production facility in Nevada. Construction was halted in November so the company could instead invest in developing a production-ready car in time for CES, Reuters reported.
Founded in 2014, Faraday Future is owned by Jia Yueting, the Chinese billionaire at the helm of LeEco holding company. The outspoken CEO has tried to position Faraday Future as a formidable rival to Elon Musk’s Tesla, Bloomberg News writes, but some suppliers and business partners now doubt LeEco’s financial security and allege that the company has fallen behind on payments.
Meanwhile, its competitors have moved ahead with the production of their own vehicles. Tesla produced 83,922 vehicles throughout 2016, a 64 percent increase compared to the year before, the company announced Tuesday. Of those, 76,230 were actually delivered to customers, just shy of Tesla’s goal of 80,000 for the year, The Wall Street Journal reported,
California-based Lucid Motors, which has designed its own electric and autonomous sedan, dropped the curtain on that car in December. Executives expect the first Lucid Air will roll off the line in late 2018 at a production facility that the company plans to start building next year in Arizona. The Air’s initial price tag is expected to be more than $100,000. LeEco is also an investor in Lucid.
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