Faraday Future wants to reinvent automobile manufacturing

A new electric car company is using Dassault Systemes software to design a variable platform automotive architecture. We might be drivers, we might be cargo.

By Kathleen Maher

Electric cars have been a major subject of CES for several years now, and that makes perfect sense since the idea of cars is being transformed by digital technology. In fact, digital cars right now are idling at the intersection of consumer electronics and the high-tech future represented by Silicon Valley. One of the latest entrants into the field, Faraday Future, is even making that idea part of its pitch.

The company showed off its prototype car in its debut at CES 2016. The new car company will have a manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas, and they intend to pioneer an integrated design and manufacture process with a high-tech factory. The company’s employee ranks include several executives from Tesla, including Nick Sampson, senior vice president of R&D and engineering; Dag Reckhorn, vice president of Global Manufacturing; Tom Wessner, vice president of Supply Chain; and apparently more Tesla employees can be found in the rank and file. The company’s website says it has 400 employees, but the latest report cites the count at 750.

At CES, Richard Kim, the company’s head of design, took the stage. He’s a former BMW employee who headed the company’s i Design group and led the design of BMW’s i3 and i8 concepts—revolutionary cars for BMW.

The first Faraday Future concept car, the FFZERO1, made its debut at CES 2016. (Source: Faraday Future)
The first Faraday Future concept car, the FFZERO1, made its debut at CES 2016. (Source: Faraday Future)

Starting a new car company is a dangerous enterprise. Faraday makes a point in all its publicity to say it’s well funded, but it doesn’t say where that funding comes from. However, once Faraday started negotiating for land for its factory in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Sun started digging and found papers naming Chaoying Deng as the CEO; she is a corporate director at LeVision Pictures, a division of Leshi Internet and Technology known as LeTV. The paper reported in September 2015 that LeTV is also behind Leshi Super Electric Car Company, but what that company might have to do with Faraday Future has not been disclosed.

It seems safe enough to say that there’s Chinese money behind Faraday Future and sooner or later the details of the company’s leadership will have to come out. Fortune Magazine, no doubt shamed by the ability of the LV Sun to dig up filings, managed to find information about the company through Faraday Future’s incorporation filings and information about its headquarters in Gardena, California. However, the relatively well-heeled Fortune didn’t manage to report all this until November.

They found that a company named Faraday & Future was incorporated in California and Chaoying Deng was listed as Agent for Service of Process. The building in Gardena is listed as being sold to LeTV for $13.25 million. Before the LV Sun starting pulling at a loose thread, the “smart” money had been on Faraday Futures as a front for the rumored Apple car. USA Today writer Marco della Cava is clinging to that rumor in his January 7 article. One of his pieces of evidence for Apple’s sly hand is that no CEO has surfaced for the company. (We can’t help but notice that there’s at least one document that lists Chaoying Deng as the CEO, and wonder if the unwillingness for all media sources to at least speculate that she is actually the CEO is because she is a woman. But then we guess that’s unworthy of us.)

The company has an introductory video that says it is going to build cars that can accommodate a new generation of car users who are not interested in owning a car, but rather subscribing to a car that’s available when they need it. However, confusion reigned at CES 2016 when the company introduced its concept car, the FF01. It doesn’t look anything like an autonomous car for the people.

The company offers a media kit on their website that is helpful. It offers several more clues. First off, Faraday Futures wants you to know they are actually building a new model of automobile manufacture. They claim cars will roll off their line by 2017. In their video describing their “variable platform architecture” the company describes a modular system that can build different cars with a chassis that can adapt to the number of batteries required for the type of car. Batteries are linked in what the company calls a “string” that lines the base of the auto; the wheelbase/chassis and crumple zones then can be built around that bed of batteries. So, it’s conceivable Faraday can build a modest little car that can shuttle people around town as needed, or a sporty car, or a large transport. The company also suggests that their modular approach will enable rapid manufacture.

Dassault Systèmes says Faraday is using its 3DExperience technology. Dassault groups its tools into “experiences,” which address specific capability. Specifically, Faraday has adopted Dassault’s Target Zero Defect, Smart Safe & Connected. In a press release, Faraday’s senior vice president Nick Sampson said that Dassault’s focus on experience dovetails with Faraday Future’s “user-centric, technology-first approach.” He said, “Dassault Systèmes’ focus on customer experience and its unmatched technologies will enable us to meet our aggressive schedule to deliver the most advanced electric vehicles into the market. Dassault Systèmes’ industry solution experiences like ‘Target Zero Defect’ and ‘Smart Safe & Connected’ clinched the decision for Faraday Future. ” The companies say that Dassault’s tools were fully deployed to Faraday’s 400 employees worldwide within two weeks.

At CES time, the companies announced that Faraday Future will also be adopting Dassault’s Lean Production Run to build its factory in North Las Vegas. The Lean Production Run experience, says Dassault, enables plant optimization, quality control, and real-time visibility into facility operations. The tools will enable Faraday Future to build an adaptable high-tech factory.

What do we think?

The ability to build cars that are connected to the Internet, with features that can be updated via overnight software downloads as Tesla is doing, promises a future where the automotive industry is completely upended, as Faraday Futures promises.

Henry Ford promised cars in any color the customer wanted as long as the customer wanted black, but modular designs with software upgradability easily conjures up a world where cars can be instantly individualized to the driver or the rider or whatever it is we will be to that car. We might be drivers, we might be cargo.