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Faraday Future’s Awkward FF 91 Unveil Proves How Hard it is to Make Good Electric Cars

Faraday Future, the $1 billion start-up electric car company that will hopefully be building cars in the U.S. in 2018, unveiled its FF 91 luxury EV at this year’s CES. And while the goal of the company — to unify “sustainable transportation and digital ecosystems to redefine future mobility” — is admirable (and a bit confusing), its first product presentation encountered myriad setbacks, and some downright cringe-worthy moments. But despite the awkwardness, the presentation did serve as an important reminder: Making a good electric, self-driving vehicle is extremely hard.

The presentation, shown in full above, was ostensibly a standard tech product reveal with plenty of style elements borrowed from the Tesla presentation playbook. Multiple presenters took turns showing off the car’s attributes, which include everything from a battery that can go a whopping 378 miles to fully autonomous driving to styling that’s futuristic enough to be polarizing.

The Faraday Future team also showed off the FF 91’s acceleration, demonstrating its absurd 1050 horsepower drivetrain by pitting it against the Bentley Bentayga, the Ferrari 488 GTB, the “ludicrous” Tesla Model X P100D, and the Tesla Model S (which had all of the same fast fixins as its big brother). In a live drag race — that was only partially available to watch by both the live and online audience — the FF 91 handily beat the Bentley and the Ferrari, and narrowly beat out the Model S by one one-hundredth of a second, doing 0 to 60 in a blistering 2.59 seconds.

But despite those highlights, the presentation was laced with malfunctions, hiccups, and vague language that didn’t clearly demonstrate Faraday Future’s advantage over its apparent primary competitor, Tesla.

At around 1:12:15 in the video, one of the presenters, and the CEO of LeEco (the Chinese consortium that owns Faraday Future), attempt to use the FF 91’s self-driving tech to send the car off to its parking space. Instead, it just sits there. At around 1:20:15, the presenter gets into the car, seemingly expecting a welcome screen to appear on the dash and for the driver’s seat to adjust to his settings, but neither happens. The Faraday Future team also continuously touts the FF 91 as the world’s fastest production vehicle, and the most advanced EV ever. The only problem there is that the FF 91 is not actually in production. No normal consumers own one yet.

The fact that Faraday Future wants to build the world’s best EV is admirable; the EV car space desperately needs more competitors. But showmanship is not a substitute for a quality product. And the FF 91’s problematic unveil highlights the fact that what Tesla and Elon Musk have been able to pull off has been exceptional; not because they focused on marketing and big splashy unveils, but because they focused on their products.

FF 91 deliveries are “estimated” to begin in 2018, and the car will be priced as a “premium flagship model.” Considering that its main competitor appears to be the top-tier Tesla Model S, that will likely mean a price tag north of $130,000.

Images: Faraday Future

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