A project that would churn out speedy, high-end electric cars in Hanford is reportedly on life support because the Chinese entrepreneur behind it is in financial straits.
As a result, the 1-million-square-foot plant leased by Faraday Future may never build a single vehicle,
A Bloomberg News report said businessman Jia Yeuting is the leader of a group of former Tesla executives who conceived of an electric car that would compete with Elon Musk’s Tesla on the high end of the market – a car would reportedly cost about $300,000 – and be the fastest electric vehicle made.
Jia is described by Bloomberg as a “Chinese tycoon” who owns a technology company that was once worth billions but has lost more than half of its value, putting what it described as a “debt-fueled business empire” in jeopardy of collapse.
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Gardena-based Faraday Future announced in August 2017 it had leased the former Pirelli Tire Co. factory in Hanford. The carmaker had plans to invest more than $1 billion in a 3.4-million-square-foot in North Las Vegas, but it ran into financial troubles and pulled out of the project earlier in 2017.
In Kings County, however, an economic development official said he is seeing constant activity by Faraday Future representatives who plan to hire hundreds of people.
“I really don’t believe all the doomsday predictions,” said John Lehn, CEO of the Kings County Economic Development Corporation.
For instance, he said, a Faraday Future representative came to Hanford on Monday, and the EDC has been working with company officials “on a weekly basis” on plans for permits, construction and hiring.
“Everything is going as one would expect with a start-up company,” Lehn said.
It’s impossible to know with certainty what financial difficulties Jia confronts, but given that Faraday still is considered a start-up business, “why would you be surprised at a finance stream that isn’t smooth?” Lehn said.
The Hanford project “is very much alive,” Faraday said in a comment Wednesday.
“Our Hanford factory project is developing according to our planned schedule, and we appreciate the support give to us by the city of Hanford,” said Dag Reckhorn, senior vice president of global marketing.
Faraday is on “an aggressive, yet workable timeline” to have a car built by the end of the year, and plans to start work on construction and equipment at the plant by the end of March, he said.
Jia owns Leshi Internet & Technology Corp., which peaked in value at $24 billion but has since lost 60 percent of its value.
Chinese authorities suspended trading in the stock for several months and ordered Jia to return to China and repay millions in outstanding obligations, Bloomberg reported, adding that Jia is at risk of losing control of the company.
Faraday Future told Bloomberg the electric car company has not been affected by the stock plunge and “is said to have received an additional $1 billion of funding in December.”