Faraday Future appoints former head of BMW i8 project its new CEO

2 min read
Carsten Breitfeld’s official headshot, provided by Faraday Future. (Image credit: Faraday Future)
Faraday Future’s newly appointed CEO, Carsten Breitfeld. (Image credit: Faraday Future)

The US-based EV maker Faraday Future announced late Tuesday the appointment of veteran auto executive Carsten Breitfeld to the position of CEO, taking over from Jia Yueting, debt-ridden Chinese entrepreneur and CEO.

Why it matters: The appointment may signal the start of turnaround for the embattled young automaker, which has been trying to stay afloat by selling assets, cutting jobs, and reducing debt since 2017.

  • The company has delayed the production of its first luxury SUV model, the FF91, for nearly a year. It had been planned to begin at the end of 2018.

Details: Breitfeld will assume leadership of FF, push the production of the FF91 model, and finalize development of the FF81, its second mass-market offering, the company wrote in an announcement released Tuesday on its social media account.

  • The new global CEO will also lead FF in technology and product development, corporate management, as well as “on-going fund-raising activities.”
  • FF founder Jia Yueting will continue on as the chief product and user officer (CPUO) overseeing product development, user experience, and the vehicle connectivity ecosystem.
  • An auto industry veteran who worked at BMW for more than 20 years, Breitfeld was known as the project manager responsible for the development of the BMW i8, the world’s highest-selling plug-in hybrid supercar in 2016, according to the German automaker.
  • Breitfeld left his position as BMW Group vice president and in early 2016 co-founded a Chinese EV startup, Byton, with Daniel Kirchert, former managing director of Infiniti China.
  • There had been speculation over the past year that the two Byton founders had a falling out. Breitfeld announced his departure from Byton to take up a position in another EV startup, Iconiq Motors, in April at the Auto Shanghai Show.

“It was when I saw the product, the innovative technology and the many dedicated employees that make up FF that it was clear to me that FF is setting a new standard for intelligent mobility and that I needed to be a part of it. I relish the opportunity to partner with YT, expand upon the vision and forward-thinking that YT started with FF and bring this groundbreaking electric vehicle to full production.”

—Carsten Breitfeld, global CEO of Faraday Future

Context: The executive change comes just days after Faraday Future revealed a restructuring plan, signaling changes to come at the top of the firm.

  • In an announcement released Saturday, FF said Jia had paid in excess of $3 billion over the last two years toward his debts, and will set up a trust fund with his FF shares to repay creditors.
  • Jia founded embattled Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco, and had been blacklisted in China because of his debts owed, His assets have been frozen by Chinese courts since he moved to the US in mid-2017.
  • Leshi Internet, the Shenzhen-listed unit of LeEco, last week reported net losses exceeding RMB 10 billion ($1.4 billion) for the first half of the year. Jia and related parties owe RMB 6.7 billion to suppliers, according a statement released to investors in August 2018.