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Mysterious electric-car startup Faraday Future takes aim at Tesla with $1B investment

The electric-car startup has some ambitious targets, including building a plant next year and producing cars in 2017.

Faraday Future's Website
Faraday Future's website makes it look like the company has already settled on a design, but specifics are hard to come by.
Website Screenshot via Faraday Future

Faraday Future, a mysterious electric-car maker looking to take on Tesla, said Thursday it plans to invest $1 billion in a new US factory that will produce its first cars in 2017.

The Gardena, California-based startup, which launched 18 months ago, said it is considering several locations for the factory, including sites in California, Georgia, Nevada and Louisiana. A decision about the factory's location will be announced "in the coming weeks," Faraday Future said.

"Selecting the right location for the future FF manufacturing facility is critical to our overall goals," Nick Sampson, senior vice president of Faraday Future, said in a statement. "Producing our forward-looking and fully-connected electric vehicles not only requires the latest technology, but the right community partner."

The startup hasn't divulged where its funding is coming from, but Bloomberg noted that Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting is backing the company, though it doesn't state whether some or all of the money comes from the online video magnate.

Faraday Future's plans to begin manufacturing its first vehicle in a little more than half the time it took for Tesla to get its first car out the door. While Faraday plans to make cars just three years after its launch, its Palo Alto, California-based competitor launched in 2003 but didn't produce its first car, the Lotus-based Roadster, until 2008. It took an additional four years from there to build its own car from the ground up.

"We are quite far along in the design and engineering process," said Stacy Morris, a Faraday Future spokeswoman. "We just released data for manufacturing prototypes, as well as initial long-lead tooling data for production."

While technology has advanced since Tesla was born, Faraday's three-year timeline for production still faces challenges, experts warn.

"[Building cars] is a space that a lot of startups have tried and failed at. It's just a good way to burn money for a long time, which you can see is still happening with Tesla," said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst at auto-industry analysis firm IHS Automotive. "But what's interesting about Faraday is the Chinese backing, because you have people with the cash and the interest to make these investments. FF did a good job with its hiring. If you want to throw a lot of money at a large roster of employees to speed things up a bit, it can happen."

Making its headquarters in Nissan's former sales facility, Faraday is pulling in some very serious talent with experience in alternative-energy vehicles, which could prove beneficial to Faraday's timeline goals. The automaker's website lists some powerful hires, including Dag Reckhorn, Tesla's former director of manufacturing, and Richard Kim, the lead designer for BMW's i3 and i8 concepts. The team is already some 400 employees strong, and the company expects to grow to 500 by the year's end.