Jia Yueting, who claimed that he "would die for his dream", started making cars in 2014. He finally delivered the first FF91 to users in August this year, achieving a breakthrough from “PPT car making” to “actual delivery”. On November 23, FF announced that it had signed agreements with two Middle Eastern companies to start operations in the region from 2024.

Nine years ago, under the pressure of huge debts, Jia Yueting flew across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, USA, trying to restart his life by making cars. He founded Faraday Future (hereinafter referred to as FF) and claimed to create a smart electric car that surpasses Tesla, subverting the traditional car industry.

How is the California factory that carries Jia Yueting’s car-making dream? Can FF 91 really become the “disruptor of Ferrari and Maybach” as Jia Yueting said? NBD reporter recently flew to California, USA, for a deep investigation, revealing the mysterious veil of FF’s California factory and FF 91.

Four-hour stakeout at FF factory: empty factory, scattered trash, no workers in sight

The FF factory (FF ieFactory California) is located in the outskirts of Hanford, a small town in California, sandwiched between the first and second largest metropolitan areas in California, Los Angeles and the Bay Area (Silicon Valley). This is an area dominated by farmland and livestocks, and it is hard to associate it with smart electric car manufacturing.

Photo/a ranch along the road from San Jose to Hanford

Along the way, there are many farms. Heavy trucks carrying fruits, vegetables and livestock can be seen from time to time on the highway, but there are hardly any large factories on both sides of the road.

Photo/ FF factory seen from a distance on the highway

About 4.8 miles south of Hanford and about 9 miles out of town, the reporter turned left at a crossroad and finally saw the FF factory.

Photo/the only sign of the FF factory

According to satellite map measurements, the entire FF factory covers an area of about 20.8 acres and is surrounded by a 3-meter-high iron fence; and outside the iron fence, there is a parking area of about 5 acres in size, which can be freely accessed.

Schematic diagram of the FF factory marked by Google satellite map

Photo/the entrance of FF factory

NBD reporter drove to enter the factory from the main gate, but was stopped by a female security guard: “We won’t let anyone in unless you get permission from someone inside.”

She said that the factory is currently in operation, and cars can be seen inside the factory, but an appointment is required. When the reporter asked who to make an appointment with, she just answered with “someone” and did not tell the specific way of making an appointment.

The reporter had to temporarily leave the FF gate and drove to the other end of the parking area mentioned above.

Photo/the parking area of FF factory

NBD found a small door and tried to get closer. At this time, a male staff member walked out of an old car parked at the factory gate. He noticed me and came forward to ask. I tried to enter the door by saying that I wanted to use the bathroom, but was rejected. I looked through the door and found that the factory doors and windows were closed and could not see the inside, but there was no sign of personnel activity in the open area of the factory.

Photo/ the small door and the scene inside on the other side of the factory

In the parking area outside the factory, the reporter found that the ground was covered with hundreds of parking stalls, but most of them were vacant, and the view was very open. During the reporter’s stay in the parking area, there was no vehicle entry or exit.

Photo/ the parking area in front of the FF factory

NBD reporter walked along the iron fence in the parking area and found that the factory on this side had about 20 windows and dozens of floor-to-ceiling doors, but most of them were closed. A few doors were half-open, but no workers were seen entering or exiting. There was no valuable material or goods for making cars outside the factory; and the open space in front of the factory was littered with bits and pieces of trash, which seemed to have been neglected for a long time.

Photo/ the FF factory taken from the parking area

That day was a working day (Thursday), and the reporter stayed around the FF factory and nearby areas from 11 am to 3:30 pm, but did not find any signs of workers’ activity inside the factory, nor did he hear any mechanical operation sound inside the factory. Not only that, during the approximately 30 minutes that the reporter was squatting near the gate, he only saw a Tesla Model 3 enter the gate, and no other vehicles drove out of the factory.

But if you look around the FF factory, you will see a completely different picture.

Next to the FF factory is a sand and gravel plant, where sand and gravel materials are piled up outside the factory gate, semi-trailer trucks come and go, and dust is flying; the large machinery inside the factory is operating in a tense and orderly manner, and a rumbling sound is heard from time to time.

Picture of the sand and gravel plant next to the FF factory

The reporter drove around the entire factory several times, and apart from the old sign at the gate and the conversation with the security guard, the whole factory seemed to have no more FF elements.

Photo/ the FF factory and parking area taken from the highway

In a McDonald’s parking lot in Hanford, the reporter asked a local passerby, “Have you heard of a luxury car manufacturing factory nearby?” He said he didn’t know, and also said, “Hanford rarely sees Asian faces.” The reporter then got the same answer from the McDonald’s staff.

FF 91 test drive: strong regenerative braking, and powerful drag, causing dizziness

Jia Yueting once claimed that FF 91 is “the pioneer of the ultra-luxury super-top market in the era of smart electric vehicles with extreme intelligence and technology”, and is “the disruptor of the traditional ultra-luxury car civilization represented by Ferrari and Maybach”. But as of now, FF 91 has only delivered 8 units, and the public’s impression of this car has always stayed on PPT and videos, let alone personal experience of this car.

During the investigation in the United States, NBD reporter saw the true face of FF 91 at FF’s Los Angeles headquarters and conducted on-site test rides and drives.

FF headquarters: There are about 5 FF 91 in the test workshop, but none of them are finished

When I arrived at FF headquarters at around 10:30 am, the two gates on the main road were closed and no one was guarding them. But on a small road next to it, there was a door that could be entered normally. As soon as I entered, the security guard stopped me and asked about the purpose. After learning that I had made an appointment in advance, he asked to register my ID and report it.

Photo/the entrance of FF headquarters

While waiting at the gate, I walked straight into the building through a door opposite the parking area. About five or six staff members were busy working inside, but none of them wore uniforms.

According to Scott, the global product marketing director and delivery ambassador of FF who came later to pick up me, I was in a test workshop, and the parked cars were all “test cars”, which were used to test different components, including performance, air conditioning, interior and chassis.

According to my observation, there were about 5 FF 91 test cars parked in the entire workshop. From the appearance, the vehicles were unfinished to varying degrees. Some seats were not installed, some steering wheels were missing, some front hoods were opened, and some were plugged in with computers for debugging.

After meeting Scott, I expressed my hope to see Jia Yueting at FF headquarters. Scott said, “Jia Yueting comes to work early almost every day, and he was here this morning.” He then led me to the large office area on the second floor of the headquarters building. According to Scott, Jia Yueting’s office is an independent room in the large office area. However, after walking to this room, I did not see Jia Yueting.

Picture of the office area of the FF headquarters building

“YT (Jia Yueting’s English name) is very busy, he may have gone out.” Scott explained. He told me that Jia Yueting brought the“overworking culture” to Los Angeles, and he and his employees worked very late, and even often had meetings after work at night.

Static experience: luxurious interior and spacious rear seats

In the delivery showroom, I finally saw a complete FF 91 test drive car. After a close observation, I found that FF 91 continued the exterior design of the prototype car that debuted for the first time in 2017, and it is not outdated today.

Photo/ FF 91 in the delivery workshop

The FF 91’s front adopts a through-type LED light group design, and the letters FF rotated 45° counterclockwise to form a LOGO that will also light up. The body lines are smooth and simple, the side uses hidden door handles and rearview mirrors, and all four doors use a “suicide door” design. The 22-inch large wheels highlight the sense of movement. On the rear design, FF 91 has a large-sized taillight group.

Photo/FF 91 taillight lighting effect

Entering the rear seat of the car, my first feeling was luxury. I am 175cm tall and felt that its very spacious, and the seats were also very soft and fit, with massage, heating, ventilation, memory and other functions. According to Scott, the length of the car is 5250 mm, the height is 1602 mm, the wheelbase is 3200 mm, and the rear seats support 180-degree reclining. However, in today’s “blooming” electric car market, the “boss seat” function is already standard on domestic electric cars in the range of 250,000 to 300,000 yuan.

Photo/FF 91 rear seat

Software and hardware collaboration: delayed response, and the door cannot be closed

The FF 91 has more than 10 screens, including a head-up display, a liquid crystal instrument, a streaming media rearview mirror, a 15.4-inch central control screen, a 17-inch co-pilot screen, a 27-inch rear entertainment display system, etc.; the interior also uses soft materials to wrap, and the door panels, central armrests, and central control panels are also decorated with lines and dots.

Photo/ FF 91 front row

FF 91 can be praised for creating a visual “top luxury technology sense”, but in terms of experience, NBD did not feel the convenience.

Scott demonstrated to me how to adjust the seat back, steering wheel, rear screen, sound system and a series of daily operations using the car-mounted screen, but I found that many controls need to click to open multiple sub-menus on the screen to find, which is very inconvenient. 

In addition, when Scott used his mobile phone to demonstrate how to enjoy audio and video entertainment functions on the rear entertainment display system, there was a delay of nearly 2 seconds in the transmission response between the software and hardware.

Photo/the FF 91 rear door screen

Since I entered the car, Scott has been explaining the various comfort functions of the vehicle, but I found that even a simple switch door requires touch control. And during repeated door opening and closing tests, I actually encountered a situation that the door could not be closed and there was no response by touch control in the car. Scott saw this and quickly repeated my operation, but the door still had no response. In the end, he closed the door by remote control with his mobile phone.

And in the subsequent test drive, I found the door had no response before my second press on the brake. Scott explained that he also issued an instruction to close the door, which may conflict with the reporter’s operation.

From the above details, it can be seen that although FF 91 has a luxurious appearance, but the coordination and smoothness of the software and hardware are not enough, and even worse than the domestic electric cars with a price of only one-tenth of it.

Dynamic test drive: fast acceleration, but the regenerative braking force too strong, and discomfort caused by strong drag

After the static experience, Scott took me to have a drive.

In Jia Yueting’s eyes, the FF 91 2.0 series can be regarded as an all-around product, which is comfortable and luxurious while also having driving fun and racing “control sense”. He has described the driving experience of FF 91 as “you can see an elephant dancing” in multiple scenarios.

The test ride and drive area is the open-air parking lot of the headquarters building, with a total area of about 1.5 football fields.

The moment the vehicle started, I experienced the “heavy feeling” of the vehicle in the rear row. The vehicle’s suspension system was comfort, the power output was smooth and stable, the delay or jitter was well controlled, and the driving sound was also low and dynamic, without the buzzing or sharp sound heard in most electric cars.

In the “HyperDrive (high performance) mode”, Scott stepped on the accelerator, and I felt a strong pushback; at high-speed cornering, the vehicle showed strong stability, and in the moose test session, there was no side tilt when turning sharply, unlike the comfortable cars and SUVs.

I then conducted a test drive. Compared with other large-sized ultra-luxury cars, the FF 91 vehicle did not feel bloated when driving, the steering wheel was very light, the steering slack was not large, and the feedback was clear. Then, I stepped on the accelerator to accelerate the vehicle to a speed of about 80KM/h, and quickly stepped on the brake to stop the vehicle in a short time, and experienced the braking performance of the car. The subjective feeling is that the brake is soft, the braking is smooth, and it will not be too tiring.

If the accelerator is released, the vehicle has a very strong sense of drag, and the regenerative braking force is very large, and dizziness comes on, which seriously affects the dynamic driving experience.

In this regard, Scott explained to the reporter that some drivers have also reported this problem, but in order to ensure the driving range of FF 91, the regenerative braking force is indeed relatively large and cannot be adjusted temporarily; if adjusted, the current 381-mile (about 613 kilometers) range cannot be guaranteed. The reporter noticed that even for domestic mainstream electric cars below 300,000 yuan, regenerative braking intensity adjustment is a standard configuration.

For the above problems of FF 91, some people in the automotive industry pointed out to the reporter that “the acceleration performance of electric vehicles must consider the changes of other indicators, and truly excellent car companies need to do a good job of coordinating and tuning the electric control system, and the linear deceleration experience during regenerative braking is a problem that electric vehicles of tens of thousands of yuan need to consider.”

FF claims on its official account that FF 91 has “FF aiDriving”, which is the first private domain fully autonomous driving in the industry with multimodal fusion perception and industry-leading computing power. But in this test drive, Scott did not show the reporter the “private domain fully autonomous driving” and other content described on the official website with full of technology. rewrite in native english

Behind the “co-creation delivery” business model: innovation or imitation of LeEco?

Along with the debut of FF 91, there is also Jia Yueting’s “co-creation delivery” model. FF explains that the co-creation business model is an open UP2U (you decide) business model, which allows users to become FF’s partners and achieve co-creation.

In the communication with NBD, Scott also explained: “Co-creation means ‘guests and us provide resources to each other’.” He also gave an example, “Jason is a luxury house seller, and we ‘co-create’ with him. He makes a video, and depicts the top luxury life in Southern California, which is helpful to us.”

The Jason in Scott’s mouth is the American real estate tycoon and Netflix star Jason Oppenheim (the second delivery car owner of FF 91).

According to FF, Oppenheim is an American celebrity, luxury real estate agent, president and founder of The Oppenheim Group, and star of Netflix’s popular reality shows “Selling Sunset” and “Selling Orange County”; his real estate agency has offices in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, San Diego and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

FF’s WeChat public account shows that considering Jason’s influence in the luxury house circle and among luxury lovers including luxury cars, FF and Jason reached an agreement, and Jason will provide social media content and attend company events for a fee.

As of now, FF 91 has delivered 8 vehicles, and except for Jia Yueting himself, the delivery targets are all celebrities or internet celebrities with a certain social influence.

Regarding the production plan of FF 91, Scott said, “(FF 91) is still customized and not mass-produced. There is only a production schedule, and we communicate with customers first about their preferred configuration, delivery time and place, etc., and then produce on demand. Customers who are interested and have paid the deposit have been scheduled to early next year.”

After I expressed my purchase intention, Scott said that I could make a reservation first. When I said that my friend was a venture capitalist (VC) and might become a potential customer of FF, Scott immediately showed great interest in my friend and said“If your friend is doing VC, she can help introduce investors or invest by herself. Generally speaking, co-creators will get FF 91 cars first. Leaders from different industries will give our brand a boost, so we welcome leaders from different industries. What is your friend’s name? You can also provide me with her social account. If she can provide some resources, we have some room for coordination internally (delivery).”

This may reveal the essence of FF’s “co-creation and sharing” model-raising investment.

It is worth noting that FF’s co-creation and sharing business model reminds people of the past when the domestic entertainment industry flocked to invest in LeEco.

On May 7, 2016, LeEco announced a reorganization, and the company planned to issue shares and pay cash to 44 shareholders of LeEco Film. Among these 44 shareholders, there are many film and television stars, such as, in October 2014, Zhang XX once subscribed for the newly registered capital of LeEco Film of 2.083 million yuan, and later increased to 12.0153 million yuan; in May 2015, Guo XX bought 5 million shares of LeEco Film at a price of 1 yuan per share.

According to LeEco’s statement at the time, “they are all market-oriented investments and shareholdings”. However, when the stars flocked to invest in LeEco, it had some meaning of “co-creation and sharing” as it is said now.

According to reports, due to the high valuation given by LeEco to LeEco Film at that time, it meant that the stars’ initial investment income soared, and many people estimated that the floating profit reached more than 10 times. LeEco also made full use of the resources of big-name stars and pulled stars to promote the company’s new TVs and mobile phones. In 2015, LeEco’s superphone launch invited big names such as Huang XX to the stage.

Not only LeEco Film, but also star shareholding was the way for LeEco Sports to raise funds and expand its shares. According to reports, in 2015, LeEco Sports’ A-round financing valuation was 2.8 billion yuan, and the B-round financing valuation soared to 2.05 billion yuan in 2016; in LeEco Sports’ B-round financing, many stars also appeared.

As LeEco’s funding chain problems were exposed, LeEco Sports and LeEco Film in LeEco’s ecological system were not spared. On April 26, 2019, LeEco bid farewell to the A-share market, and LeEco’s acquisition of LeEco Film, which had been planned for three years, became a bubble, meaning that the dream of trying to enter the capital market through LeEco and achieve a wealth explosion was ultimately shattered.

FF faces three dilemmas: market, capital and investors

Although FF 91 2.0 Futurist Alliance has finally been delivered, the entire new energy vehicle market has undergone earth-shaking changes in nine years-Tesla has already taken off, and traditional car companies and tech giants have also joined the game. Is there still a market for FF 91?

Dilemma one: How much market space is left for electric vehicles?

FF is priced at as high as 309,000 US dollars (about 2.261 million yuan), which is higher than Tesla Model S/X Plaid, and even surpasses the luxury pure electric vehicle series of top car companies.

At FF headquarters, Scott constantly emphasized FF 91’s high horsepower and high performance, “They (Model S/X Plaid) are 1030p horsepower, and FF 91 1050p horsepower. They (Model S/X Plaid’s battery pack) are 100 kWh, FF 91 142 kWh. We think the battery pack must reach at least 140 kWh, so (FF 91) super high performance is the biggest feature, and users are most concerned about performance.”

High performance means high price, but are consumers really willing to pay for high-priced cars? An executive director of an investment company who has been engaged in investing in new energy vehicle companies for a long time told NBD, “There are many car companies in the high-end car segment, no matter it is BYD’s Han, Tesla or traditional BBA (Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi), all-electric vehicles are actually developing towards high-end car series, and it may not be possible to have new brand space when competing for the high-end market at this time.”

Currently, the electric vehicle market is competitive. Domestic brands such as BYD, Li Auto, Xiaopeng, and American brands such as Tesla, Chevrolet, Ford, Rivian, etc. have all formed core competitiveness.

From the perspective of the domestic new energy vehicle market, from January to September 2023, BYD’s market share accounted for 35%, and Tesla accounted for 12%.

In the US market, Tesla ranked first with a market share of 57.4% in the first three quarters of 2023.

Under the fierce competition, can FF 91 be accepted by the market? The executive director of the above-mentioned investment company believes that “except for a few new energy vehicle companies such as Tesla, BYD, and Li Auto, most car companies are selling cars at negative gross profit. The market is extremely saturated. It is difficult to sell a new car company.”

“About two or three years ago, when Wang Xing invested in Li Auto, there was a judgment that (the market) was a 12-to-3 elimination game in the end. This elimination game has started, so new energy vehicles are no longer in a cycle where there are too many new brands are born.”

Dilemma two: Can cash flow support continued mass production?

With the official launch of FF 91, can the company’s cash flow support FF to continue mass production?

From the R&D side, FF’s related expenditures are decreasing. FF’s financial report shows that in 2022, the company’s R&D expenditure was 311 million US dollars, and in 2021 it was 175 million US dollars; in the first three quarters of this year, FF’s R&D expenditure was 105 million US dollars, while in the same period last year it was 260 million US dollars.

From the perspective of cash flow, FF’s problem is more serious. In the first quarter of 2023, the company’s cash flow was 31.769 million US dollars; in the second quarter of 2023, the cash flow was 17.893 million US dollars; in the third quarter of 2023, the cash flow was only 6.714 million US dollars.

FF’s financial reports for 2021 and 2022 show that since its establishment, its cash flow from operating activities has been negative. In 2021, the company’s cumulative deficit was 3.4766 billion US dollars; in 2022, the cumulative deficit was 2.9076 billion US dollars. It can be seen that the hole is still big.

Dilemma three: Can it still win the favor of investors?

The executive director of the above-mentioned investment company believes that “For a company like FF, the best destination may be to be acquired by a big company” He said.

“Jia Yueting was the first batch of people to make cars. If he really had production capacity and supply chain, the cars would have come out a long time ago.” He said, “Making cars is not difficult, but it is also definitely not a simple thing. The operating requirement of the company's head is very high. He must understand the automotive industry, be able to organize car design, organize production, and understand user needs and sales.”

When asked who might be willing to be the buyer, he said bluntly: “For investment or acquisition targets, business reputation may not be that important. What is important is whether this company has value in the current market. The main investors in the current new energy vehicle market are Middle Eastern, European consortia and old car companies. For acquisition or investment targets, their requirements are that they must have sufficient production capacity and technical support. Therefore, if a new car company wants to get a good end, the indicator that investors look at is simply sales, and it must be able to sell cars in batches.”

He sighed: “In the new energy vehicle elimination stage, PPT car-making has fallen behind.”

Regarding FF’s “co-creation” model, FF 91’s core competitiveness, FF’s mass production plan and the challenges that mass production may face, NBD sent an interview email to FF. But as of press time, FF did not give any reply.

Editor: Alexander