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Tesla’s biggest competition for talent might not be Apple but Faraday Future, an LeTV-backed startup in Los Angeles

faraday-future-rear-view-teaserThe so-called “poaching war” for top automotive engineering talent between Tesla and Apple gathered quite a few headlines in the past months, especially after Tesla CEO Elon Musk called the Cupertino company the “Tesla Graveyard” for hiring people he claimed were “fired” by the company. But after looking closer into the recent hires between the two companies, it looks like Tesla has little to fear from Apple’s recruiting effort, at least if we compare it to Faraday Future’s.

Faraday Future took a small step out of ‘stealth mode’ earlier this summer to announce that it is looking for a location for a manufacturing facility to build an electric vehicle. In the months since, the 1-year old startup ramped up its hiring effort and now has over 400 employees with an impressive percentage coming from Tesla. Faraday Future, also called FF, remains secretive about its plan and even refused to disclose its CEO or investors even though the company is actively negotiating with state governments to find a location for its factory.

On its website, the company lists a “team of leaders” without naming the CEO and we can see that most of the executive team is coming from Tesla:

  • Nick Sampson, Senior Vice President – Former Director of Vehicle & Chassis Engineering, Tesla
  • Dag Reckhorn, Vice President of Global Manufacturing – Former Director of Manufacturing, Tesla Model S
  • Alan Cherry, Vice President of Human Resources – Former Senior Director, Human Resources at Tesla Motors
  • Tom Wessner, Vice President of Supply Chain – Former Director of Purchasing at Tesla Motors
  • Richard Kim, Head of Design – Founding member of BMW i Design and Lead Designer, i3 and i8 concepts.

When FF stepped out of ‘stealth mode’, the WSJ reported that Tesla officials believed LeTV, a Chinese technology company, has provided funding for Faraday, but FF called the suggestion “speculation”.

Now through documents filed for incorporation in California we find out that the company names Chaoying Deng as CEO. Deng is listed on her LinkedIn profile as a Director at Le Vision Pictures, which is a subsidiary of LeTV – leading us to believe Tesla officials were onto something with their “speculation”. 

Earlier this year, we reported on LeTV’s electric car strategy, which includes its own effort to produce an electric “supercar” announced by CEO Jia Yueting and a major investment in partnership with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC) into Atieva, a California-based EV startup founded by a former Tesla Motors Vice President and board member: Bernard Tse.

All these projects appear to operate as separate entities with Atieva and Faraday Future each being their own company, and LeTV running its  “Le Supercar” project.

FF says it is not only working on “traditional electric vehicles”, but also “unique ownership models, in-vehicle content and autonomous driving.”

To create the vehicle, the company acquired a lot of talent from established automakers, but disproportionately from Tesla where about 15% of its employees used to work based on our survey of ~180 FF employees. The company also hired several senior staff from another company led by Elon Musk: SpaceX.

For example, Erik Fleming, a former Apple Supply Manager, joined Tesla in 2009 as a Purchasing Manager and left for SpaceX in 2011 where he became Director of Supplier Performance. In August, he left the rocket manufacturer to join FF as Director of Powertrain and Vehicle Electrics Purchasing. Pablo Ucar, Senior Director Supply Chain at SpaceX, joined FF at the same time as Fleming to become Purchasing Director at the electric vehicle maker.

by one of the Expedition 42 crew members aboard the International Space Station, shows the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaching on Jan. 12 2015 - NASA Johnson

Picture by one of the Expedition 42 crew members aboard the International Space Station, shows the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaching on Jan. 12 2015 – NASA Johnson

But the transfer of talent from SpaceX is mild compared to the number of FF employees formerly employed by Tesla Motors. From our survey of less than 50% of FF’s workforce, we found 26 former Tesla employees without accounting for the top execs listed on the company’s website. Most of the employees are from engineering, but also design, manufacturing and HR.

Some of the most notable hires:

  • Carl Ellis – 8 years veteran of Tesla’s supply chain, he joined FF in February as a Purchasing Manager.
  • David Mastalerz – Commodity Manager at Tesla, now BIW Purchasing Manager at FF.
  • Anil Paryani – Sr Engineer at Tesla who led the battery management algorithm, now Director of Battery Systems at FF.
  • Catherine Steinmetz – Sr. Environmental Health and Safety Engineer from 2011 to 2015 at Tesla, now at a similar position at FF.

To be fair to Tesla, some left the company and had stints at other firms before joining Faraday, but the bulk of the hires we found were directly from Tesla and during the past few months.

Faraday also hired several battery researchers from universities and energy companies. Traditional automaker experience is also present within the startup, especially in the supply chain and manufacturing departments.

Overall, it appears that FF managed to gather an impressive lineup of talents to enter the EV market. The company expects to launch its vehicle in 2017 and to have the highest energy density in any electric vehicle on the market.

Tesla always welcomes new entrants on the EV market due to its mission to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport, but in this case with the new entrant heavily hiring from its staffs, they might see things differently. Recently, the company went on an hiring spree of its own, so the clear winner in this hiring saga is the job market.

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Featured image: rear-view teaser from Faraday Future

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  1. Ralph - 7 years ago

    Are we going to see just more electric cars, albeit cleverly connected and obviously carrying the latest in battery technology? Or is any of the newcomers (incl. Apple) planning to do something intrinsically interesting to the car itself? So far, to be honest, I am a bit disappointed.

  2. Bobby - 7 years ago

    Nice article. I wonder what “unique ownership models” means. Modular parts with plug and play functionality and/ or subscription model to a fleet of cars with tiers??

    • Fred Lambert - 7 years ago

      Thanks. Yeah probably a subscription model.


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