Faraday’s Biggest Problem Isn’t The Money

Faraday Future delivered on their promise to make history last night, with the spectacularly bizarre reveal of the long-awaited FF-91—a feature-packed electric crossover without a factory, MSRP or target customer.

Faraday has a big problem, but it’s not their questionable finances.

It’s the car.

The FF-91 reveal was a make-or-break moment for Faraday, and as SNL’s Stefon would say: This place had everything. A billionaire Chinese investor who might be going broke. An automotive startup trying to survive a media witch-hunt. Employees who wanted to talk, but wouldn’t give their names. A shortage of hors d’oeuvres. A Ferrari. A Bentley. A Tesla. A meaningless drag race. An unflappable Englishman who should be CEO but inexplicably isn’t. An engineer in a bad shirt two sizes too small. A sea of foreign media who sat through it all with rictus grins. A car that failed in its moment of truth.

My God. The missing money. The opaque company structure. The over-long reveal. The vague plan. This is what happens when no one is in charge. It wouldn’t matter if Faraday had $10B in the bank. Remove words like mobility and connectivity and what’s left?

You’re in the car business. People pay for great cars. People will even buy lousy cars from great brands. But people will not buy confused cars at a premium from a non-brand.

The FF-91 is a very confused car. A technical tour-de-force which highlights Faraday’s biggest problem. It’s not as sexy as a Tesla Model S. It doesn’t have Falcon doors like a Model X. It has suicide doors, which are the poor man’s scissor doors. Let’s be serious. It’s not as inspired as the recently revealed Lucid Air. The FF-91 instead packs most of the tech of a Tesla into the body of a fancy Ford Edge.

Madness.

The FF-91 does have more technology onboard than Tesla, because Faraday added a retractable Lidar sensor for autonomous driving. Alas, they put it in the middle of the hood. Turn it on and it looks like a snorkel broke while rising out of your front end. A disastrous design choice, coupled with odd side-view cameras that replace traditional mirrors. More aerodynamic, I’m sure, but if you’re going to ditch mirrors, why have stalks at all? We’ve seen body-conforming cameras done better.

As for the autonomy, Faraday is in the same boat as every manufacturer besides Waymo and Tesla—basically nowhere. Once self-driving hardware is commoditized, software is everything. Maps don’t cut it. You need driving data. Millions and millions of miles of it. What does Faraday have in this department? They weren’t saying last night.

Performance? No one cares anymore if an electric car can do 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. Teslas do that now. We almost expect electric cars to do that. An FF-91 does it in 2.4? It's not much of a selling point, and passengers aren’t going to like it at all. Not more than once, anyway. A Tesla in Ludicrous mode already makes me ill.

Handling? EV handling has been commoditized since the Model S came out in 2012. All next-gen EVs have their batteries on the floor. They’re all heavy. No one buys a big crossover for the handling, EV or otherwise.

Range? A promised 387 miles from a 130KW battery sounds impressive, but Lucid quotes 400 miles from the same pack size. What will Tesla offer in 2018 when the Lucid and FF-91 hit the market? It seems a sure bet that it’ll be over 400 miles.

One of the biggest jokes among the many present at the launch was Faraday’s claim of 1050 horsepower. Lucid claimed 1000 two weeks ago. Better one-up them! This car goes to 11. Nevermind that sources tell me EV horsepower is always a software tweak away—if you're willing to destroy your battery.

Faraday also promises the world’s fastest charging, compatible with all standards—but no network like that exists today, or is likely to exist when FF-91 deliveries ostensibly begin in March 2018. Tesla has their Supercharging network, but it’ll be an icy day in Fremont before Elon Musk opens it up to a rival. By the time the Porsche-led Euro consortium builds their high-speed charging network, Tesla will have improved theirs as well. Access to one network is hardly an improvement over a network that already exists.

As to the price, Faraday was conspicuously silent. The top-of-the-line Lucid with similar specs will allegedly cost $160,000 in late 2018.

A maxed out Tesla Model X costs just under $150,000 today, a maxed out Model S a little less than that. That buys a newly-minted owner into one of the world’s most powerful automotive and technology brands, and the best autonomy on the market. What's Lucid's value proposition? They're apparently offering an unproven super Model S, but bigger.

Which brings us to Faraday’s increasingly narrow value proposition: If you’re willing to spend that much on a premium electric sedan in 2018, you’re buying the next gen Model S with a better interior, or perhaps a Lucid. If you want a SUV/crossover, you’re shopping a Model X—also the beneficiary of an improved interior. There's very little room left in the market.

Forget Faraday the company and consider the FF-91 on its own merits. Faraday is snatching luxury from the jaws of minivan. Maybe it’s the other way around. The FF-91 is like the car designed by Homer Simpson. It's trying to be all things to all people, and is therefore nothing anyone wants. In the electric future, everything will be fast. Everything will have all the same hardware. Everything will handle reasonably well. Everything will be safe. Consumers will be attracted to, and make their decisions based on. brand, design and value.

What’s a Faraday? No one dreams of a better Ford Edge. Well, I know people who do. But only if it costs $60k.

No wonder Faraday didn’t want to talk price.

A lot of people I like and admire are at Faraday. The company's mistakes were made above them. They're mistakes that weren’t made at Tesla, and have yet to be made at Lucid. I hope Faraday gets the money they need, because we need more innovation. The old guard in Japan, Detroit and Germany remain sclerotic.

Something tells me the Chinese government will bail Faraday out if necessary—but money doesn’t guarantee success—smart choices do. There just weren’t enough of them going around Faraday when they settled on the FF-91. It's the wrong vehicle, revealed a year late, from a company full of people who deserve better leadership.

Alex Roy is author of The Driver and LiveDriveRepeat, and Editor-at-Large for The Drive. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

7 Used Military Vehicles You Can Buy*

Have you ever said to yourself, “Boy, I wish I owned a fleet of military-grade vehicles"? Well, lucky for you, the US-of-A is flush with retired military hardware—and it's selling them to the general public! You might think a 1986 AM General M923A1 would look a little odd cruising down the street next to a Toyota Camry, but our motto is "waste not, want not."

That in mind, we've combed through auction listings around the country to find a few of the raddest retirees on sale. Sure we can only admire the 1033 Program vehicles—offered only to certain law enforcement agencies because they're often heavily armored and combat-prepped for prime time—but there are tons (literally, tons) of cool support vehicles waiting to find new homes. Our seven recommendations:

1. AM General Humvee

My, how time flies. The AM General Humvee entered service way back in 1984, the year after Michael Jackson's Thriller was released. Now that the Department of Defense is trying to replace this old warhorse, there are plenty just waiting to be picked up by serious off-roaders and urban alpha males. Equipped with a 6.5L diesel engine with 185 hp and 330lb-ft of torque, 16 inches of ground clearance, and impossibly steep approach angles, it's fair to say that this thing can go anywhere you'd ask it to.
Auction price: $6,000

2. BMY M923A2 5-Ton 6x6

Forget the expensive trailer for your track car—just get a long, long ramp and toss it in the back of a retired BMY M923A2 5-Ton 6x6 van truck. These puppies were powered by 8.3-Liter Cummins inline-six engines that cranked out 240 hp and 685 lb-ft of torque. With numbers like that—and the ability to hold a payload of 10,000 lbs—these military warriors are capable of bringing your track-day special—or off-roader—wherever your heart desires. If you're really trying to be adventurous, just convert the long wheelbase version into an off-road mobile home. It'd be impressive, but quite possibly the most impressive part of this truck is the price tag.
Auctionprice:$4,000

3. 2009 Freightliner M916A3 6x6 Tractor

Car enthusiasts often have a weird obsession with tractor trailers. Whether it's the astronomical number of gears, impressive towing capacity, or mine-trumps-yours size, the desire to drive one is always there, bubbling in the background. Well, the time has come; although this truck comes equipped with a civilized seven-speed automatic Allison transmission, you'll quickly overlook that unfortunate detail due to the scant 2,674 miles on the odometer—and the 12.7L Detroit Diesel engine.
Auctionprice: $18,000

4. Stevenson M1079 LMTV 4x4 Van Truck

People spend north of $500,000 on luxury off-road campers. There's something you want out there, from utilitarian simplicity to bespoke builders using artisanal woods and humanely treated leathers. And they're all spendy. Rather than setting a pile of cash on fire, consider spending $13,000 on a diesel off-roader like this M1079. Hell, spend $20,000 on upgrades and you'll still come up $467,000 less than the schmuck with a mortgage on his ride.
Auctionprice:$13,000

5. 1984 Chevrolet D10 Blazer 4x4

Nothing screams ‘Murica more than an olive-drab, 1980s diesel Blazer. It’s loud, boxy, inefficient, and inarguably glorious. The 6.2L diesel V-8 was built to last, and will happily guide you through years of shenanigans. With 160 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque, you aren’t going to win any races, but you're too cool to enter a race, aren't you?
Auctionprice: $800

6. 1985 Oshkosh AS 32P-19 4x4 Fire Truck

When we were six (or 26), we glued our faces to the window when they passed. Now, you can own one. Thanks to the auction site Gov Planet, you can own a fire truck equipped with working water cannons. Sure, the Oshkosh may be a little large, and a lot impractical, but no one can argue with the fact that you are the proud owner of a fire truck.
Auctionprice: $4,000

7. 2009 Chevrolet Suburban LT 2500

Unfortunately, the coveted Suburban 2500 was not available to the general public while in production. New models were restricted to government agencies and municipal services. But you can often find these gems gracing auction sites or used car lots around the country. Rather than using the 5.3L V-8 you find in the Suburban, these beefed-up SUVs use a 6.0L V-8 good for 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque. Although those are more or less the power outputs of the current Suburban, the heavy-duty alternator and enhanced suspension means a truck like this one should handily outlast its little brother.
Auctionprice: $5,000

The Missouri Auto Dealers Association Hates You, Tesla & America

America is under attack, but it’s not the Russians we need to be worried about. It’s car dealers. Not all car dealers are bad, but even the good ones are protected by bad laws, and all of them are protected by dealer associations, who are like ISIS, the IRS and cancer rolled into one.

All four horsemen of the American economic apocalypse — cronyism, cowardice, hypocrisy and protectionism — are represented by dealer associations. The worst of the lot, those of Texas, Michigan and Virginia, are now joined by Missouri’s MADA, whose legal victory over Tesla may deprive them of the right to sell cars in that state.

We need a new House on Un-American Activities Commission, this one focused on the anti-competitive forces that are the real Communists among us.

Competition is at the heart of American economic strength. The opposite of competition is Communism, central planning and failure. Competition is how the United States won the Cold War. It’s how and why species, technologies and business evolve and grow. It’s why homo sapiens are the dominant biped, the World Wide Web crushed the Minitel, and Google eclipsed AltaVista. It’s why everyone is scrambling to catch up to Tesla by embracing the technologies they’ve pioneered.

Dealer associations like MADA are terrified of competition, and by attempting to stifle it are hurting you, and weakening our auto sector and America itself.

Tesla’s War To Save America Car Manufacturing
Tesla has been fighting a just war on multiple fronts, from technological to legal to conceptual, but the real front is philosophical. Whether or not you believe in direct sales, electrification, self-driving cars or government subsidies is irrelevant. Elon Musk believes in competition, and MADA doesn’t. Anything that gets in the way of competition — whether politics, regulation or corruption — is un-American.

There can be only one exception: consumer safety. Guess what? The Tesla Model S has the best safety rating of any car ever tested.

Tesla had already set up shop in Missouri, selling and servicing cars for their happy customers, but that was too much for MADA, who sued under the state’s dealer franchise laws to have Tesla’s dealer license renewal rejected. MADA’s argument? It’s the law. Tesla should obey it.

Guess what? We’ve had a lot of bad laws that last too long. Slavery used to be legal. Women couldn’t vote. MADA claims Tesla’s factory-direct sales bypassed the franchise law, which allegedly protects consumers.

It’s clear that consumers don’t need protection from Tesla at all. People love Tesla so much they’re practically the Apple of automotive. In fact, the latest Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey ranks Tesla ranks #1, with 91% of owners saying they would buy another. The legacy automakers? Porsche ran a close second at 84%. Everyone else in the seventies. Or worse.

If consumers have already decided, so has the stock market, sending Tesla post-IPO from $20/share to a 2016 close of $216. The media? Nearly 40% of automotive press is devoted to Tesla, a company with zero marketing or advertising budget. 2016 was Tesla’s best year ever, and they received orders for nearly 400,000 orders of the upcoming Model 3, a sub-$40k sedan derived from the Model S, one of the most important cars of all time.

Competitors have also decided: Tesla is a threat. Tesla single-handed invented the market for electric and autonomous cars. Every electric or autonomous automotive technology ever sold before the Model S was pathetic. Every competitor’s press release pays lip service to their efforts to catch up. Every dismissive statement conceals their fear. Every electric powertrain shown, every autonomous feature announced, every CTO hire and software company investment, all are done in the hopes consumers will wait 12-36 months for the old guard to catch up with where Tesla is today.

Sadly, all those Tesla-killers have so far been wishful thinking.

I have no doubt the leading automotive minds in Germany, Detroit and Japan will get future-thinking products to market. They have to, if they don’t want to be one of the eight carmakers buried when the industry shrinks to six, according to Morgan Stanley and Soichiro Honda, founder of you know who.

Competition within the domestic car market strengthens us vis-a-vis imports. Tesla created the market for premium electric and autonomous cars, which overlaps with luxury imports. No domestic manufacturer makes anything rivalling the best German sedans. If Tesla goes away, we cede that market for another generation or more. American manufacturers already gave away the hybrid baby to Toyota. With the Model 3, Tesla hopes to reclaim the market for affordable innovation.

Protecting entrenched interests at the expense of domestic manufacturing and innovation doesn’t sound very patriotic to me.

If you want to talk about being pro-America, Tesla is the most American car company out there, representing the highest of American ideals. Ambition. Ingenuity. Confidence. They manufacture in the United States. They’re building factories. They’re hiring and training the best minds on the cutting edge of the future of transportation. Real job creation? Thy name is Tesla.

MADA’s Hypocrisy

In order to grasp MADA’s vulgar hypocrisy, let’s take a look at the MADA Board of Directors, a group whose leaders’ political donations show no apparent consistency other than to serve their own interests, not coincidentally representing brands behind the curve of where Tesla and the automotive industry are headed.

Outgoing MADA Chairman Bob Beine, representing Republic Ford, also owns an FCA franchise. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s positions on autonomy and electrification are well known, and they’ve been on deathwatch so long jokes are no longer funny. Beine is a free marketeer when it suits him, having donated thousands to Republicans such as Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, Representative Billy Long, former Representative Melton Hancock, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman.

But when it comes to Tesla, Beine hates free markets. Gotta protect those consumers from factory direct sales.

Dave Mungenast, Jr., MADA’s Chairman-Elect, represents Mungenast St. Louis Honda — a manufacturer generally behind the curve on cutting edge tech — but also owns a Toyota/Lexus franchise. He donated money to Republican Representative Ann Wagner, ergo, free marketeer. He also donated money to Russ Carnahan, a Democrat who supported tax credits for hybrids and believes in global warming. What a coincidence. I hear Japanese hybrids are very popular, especially that Prius thing, and one particular Lexus crossover.

But when it comes to Tesla, Mungenast hates free markets, green tech and the environment. Gotta protect those hybrid customers who might get upsold to the best electric car on the market.

What precisely is MADA doing besides paying their lawyers to deprive the good people of Missouri of cars they want to buy? It’s certainly not hiring the right social media people. Check out MADA’s Facebook link:

Seriously? MADA’s Facebook page is dead? If it’s dead, MADA is just incompetent. Or is it just private? If so, why? They already have a password-protected section of their site. I doubt they have much worth hiding except their craven weakness. Oh, wait. It’s only broken from the About MADA page. The Facebook link from the homepage works fine. Looks like incompetence. It also looks like they have a 2.4 out of 5 rating from page visitors. It also looks like MADA deletes pro-Tesla comments from the discussion:

Let’s check out MADA’s Twitter:

Hmmm. 633 followers. Not bad. Actually, wait. MADA joined Twitter in 2009 and only has 633 followers? Sad! And they’re following 650 people? If you know anything about Twitter, you know that’s a deadly ratio. The only good news here is that they weren’t dumb enough to buy followers, which would have been inexplicably pathetic.

As opposed to the explicable, highlighted by the insulting hypocrisy of what appears to be MADA’s mission statement:

If MADA is so “dedicated to acquiring, preserving, and disseminating information to all branches of the automotive industry” then why is their Twitter so crappy and why are pro-Tesla Facebook comments being deleted?

If they “hold a strong commitment to engaging in non-profit scientific and educational activities” then why are they expending resources to fight Tesla, the automotive industry’s greatest ambassador in innovating “the sale, marketing, delivery, repair and use” of motor vehicles?

Their definition of “anything and everything” is worthy of Pravda at the height of the Cold War.

Here’s MADA’s statement on the "non-profit" educational function they provide:

MADA would be wise not to invoke the scientific method, which is what got Elon Musk where he is today. Maybe they should donate to a law school, whose graduates’ services they clearly need. As for the "non-profit" aspect, they sure hope to profit from the omission of any information that might benefit Tesla. So much for helping out consumers.

But wait, that's not MADA's mission.

MADA represents car dealers, whom 75% of people hate. It’s why Tesla wants to sell direct. If the legacy manufacturers were innovating — and MADA was capable of executing on their mission statement — Tesla wouldn’t have a business model.

Let me tell you what MADA has educated me about: if the American auto industry wants to be great again, it needs better representatives. Right now, Tesla is that representative. If legacy car dealers felt like Tesla stores — which feel like Apple stores — MADA might have one-quarter of an argument. Alas, MADA has nothing other than protecting a weak hand getting weaker every day “Tesla killers” fail to arrive.

Ford, GM and everyone else selling domestically is being betrayed by dealer associations like MADA, who would spend money to litigate rather than even attempt to do their self-proclaimed jobs. No one who wants a Tesla will be dissuaded by stopping their sale in Missouri. They might be attracted to a rival car — if such a car existed — if legacy dealers matched Tesla’s shopping and support experience.

Good luck with that.

I hear Chevy Bolts are only available in a couple of states. Missouri isn’t one of them. I wonder why.

How To Make The America Car Industry Great Again
I’m not telling you to buy a Tesla, although if you’re in the market for one you won’t regret it. I’m suggesting that if you don’t want a Tesla, don’t buy a car from an active member of a dealer association like MADA. Vote for America with your wallet. Send Beine and Mungenast a message. If you live in Missouri and want a Ford, Honda, GM or Toyota product, don’t buy it from the people behind MADA. Drive to a neighboring state and buy it from one of their competitors. Don’t worry about whether it’s an American brand. A lot of foreign brands are built here. It just takes a little research.

If you want to send MADA a letter or call to leave a message, they can be reached here.

Or put down a deposit on a Tesla Model 3. Something tells me by the time it arrives, it’s going to be more advanced than the so-called Tesla killers that are supposed to arrive around the same time. If it's as revolutionary as the Model S, the industry will tremble, which is a good thing.

Competition works.

Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He doesn't own any Tesla stock. He owns a Morgan 3-wheeler, a Citroen SM, an old BMW M5, and an '87 Porsche 911.