Faraday Future brings in BMW veteran as new CEO

Faraday Future, the electric-vehicle upstart that was on the brink of insolvency last year, hired a BMW AG veteran to lead efforts to finally bring its debut car to market and raise more money.

Carsten Breitfeld, who spent two decades at BMW and then 3 1/2 years leading two other electric-vehicle startups, will take over as chief executive officer from Faraday founder Jia Yueting, who’s becoming chief product and user officer. Faraday aims to start production of its 1,050-horsepower FF 91 model next year and follow that up with its mass-market offering, the FF 81, in 2021.

“The top priority right now is fundraising. We will have to go to the capital markets,” Breitfeld said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “In the first stage, it will be a three-digit million dollar amount that’s still missing to make all of this happen.”

Breitfeld will also focus on hiring around Silicon Valley. Faraday has 600 employees globally now, almost half of which are in California.

The FF 91 will be be available in two- or three-motor configurations and be built in small numbers in Hanford, California. It’ll sell for upwards of $150,000 and come standard with zero-gravity, lie-flat rear seats. Eleven screens inside the cabin boast about 100 inches worth of displays, including a 27-inch fold-down monitor for passengers.

Breitfeld expects production to start in Hanford within the next 12 months. The FF 81 and another mass-market car being developed will be built in China, which he expects to begin within 2 1/2 years.

Faraday won a much-needed cash infusion when it formed a joint venture earlier this year with The9 Ltd., the Chinese online-gaming company. A unit of China Evergrande Group, the property developer owned by Hui Ka Yan, China’s third-richest man, pursued a $2 billion investment last year, though the deal soured over Faraday’s ability to take on additional investors.

Jia, who left for the U.S. two years ago amid a cash crunch at his companies in China, is establishing a repayment trust with Faraday equity to resolve his debts, according to the company. In July 2017, a Shanghai court froze 1.24 billion yuan ($182 million) of assets that he and his tech conglomerate LeEco held at the time.

Before Breitfeld left BMW, he led the German carmaker’s development of the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. He became CEO of Byton Ltd. in 2016 and was chief of Iconiq Motors for a few months earlier this year.

“What is missing now is execution,” Breitfeld said of Faraday. “This is where I see a bit of my value coming in here, because this company has a great vision.”

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Faraday Future brings in BMW veteran as new CEO