Faraday Future, the struggling Chinese-American electric vehicle start-up, has appointed the former head of BMW’s i EV division to lead it out of its financial difficulties.
Carsten Breitfeld, who played an integral role in BMW’s entry into the EV market with the all-electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8, will take over as chief executive at the Los Angeles-based firm with the goal of delivering its first production model.
The highly regarded German engineer has broad experience in the EV ranks, having filled key positions at rival Chinese start-ups Byton and Iconiq since his departure from BMW in 2016.
Breitfeld succeeds Jia Yueting, founder of Faraday Future. Yeuting, who stepped down from the CEO role as part of stipulations demanded by Faraday Future investors, will continue to play a senior role in the company as chief product and user officer. The key aim of Breitfeld’s appointment is a start of production for the Faraday Future FF91.
First revealed at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the large crossover-style vehicle has reportedly been developed to a near-to-production-ready state. However, crippling debts had seen plans for it to be produced at a factory in Hanford, California, placed on hold.
Faraday Future aims to start production of the 1070bhp four-wheel-drive FF91 in 2020 and follow it up with a smaller, yet to be revealed FF81 model in 2022.
“The priority now is fundraising. We will go to the capital markets,” Breitfeld said. “In the first stage, it will be a three-digit million dollar amount that’s still missing to make all of this happen.”
Breitfeld says his initial focus at Faraday Future will be hiring new staff in North America. The Chinese EV start-up currently employs around 600 people worldwide, almost half of whom are based in California. A significant number of staff were laid off as the financial difficulties emerged late in 2018.
In keeping with original plans, the FF91 is set to be sold in both two- and three-motor configurations and be produced at a dedicated factory in Hanford. Pricing has yet to be revealed, though it is expected to be upwards of £120,000.
Breitfeld says he expects production of the FF91 to begin in California within the next 12 months. The more affordable FF81 is planned to be built in China within the next two and a half years.
“What is missing now is execution,” Breitfeld said of Faraday Future. “This is where I see a bit of my value coming in, because this company has a great vision.”
Faraday Future was saved from almost certain bankruptcy earlier this year with a cash infusion through a joint venture with The9 Ltd, a Chinese online-gaming company. The Evergrande Group, the property conglomerate owned by Hui Ka Yan, China’s third-richest man, pursued a significant investment in Faraday Future in 2018. However, it failed to go ahead when additional investment promised by the Chinese EV start-up failed to materialise.