Struggling EV startup Faraday Future last week appointed auto industry veteran Carsten Breitfeld as CEO.
Breitfeld replaced Jia Yueting, FF's embattled co-founder whose mismanagement of the company, as well as his own finances, has resulted in significant delays in the production of the FF91 electric SUV. Jia will remain with the company as its chief product and user officer, where he will oversee diverse aspects including implementation of AI, connectivity and the overall user experience.
Breitfeld is the co-founder of rival EV startup Byton, which he led until April, and prior to that he was the head of BMW's i8 sports car program. His intimidate tasks at FF include fundraising and getting the FF91 into production.
He will also oversee a restructuring that could see FF establish new partnerships. The company is already linked with two firms based in China. One is Evergrande Group, a conglomerate that is attempting to expand into auto manufacturing. The other is a video game company called The9.
“I am thrilled to accept the role of CEO and look forward to powering FF to its next stage of success,” Breitfeld said in a statement. “One of the main reasons I joined FF was (Jia) and his vision for how the mobility eco-system will transform the industry, and FF’s industry-leading products and technology, as well as their recently implemented global partnership program.”
As for Jia's financial problems, he will focus on repaying his creditors, both private and company related, via a trust fund seeded with the sale of his own shares in FF.
“I gave up everything to make sure FF will succeed, and to fully repay my remaining guarantor debt as soon as possible, and ultimately to realize the dream of revolutionizing the automotive industry,” Jia said in a statement.
FF's troubles date back all the way to 2016 when Jia announced that another venture of his, Chinese tech giant LeEco, was experiencing a cash crush. FF subsequently stopped work on a planned $1 billion plant in Nevada and started to look for additional investors.
Since then the company has secured a small plant in California and started pre-production of the FF91, which was revealed in early 2017 and originally due on sale in 2018. FF is currently supported by a bridge loan secured in April as it seeks additional investment to get the FF91 into production. If all goes to plan, the company will follow the FF91 shortly by a more affordable model, also an SUV, dubbed the FF81.