Faraday Future loses EV pioneer amid layoffs | Tech Industry
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Peter Savagian, a former chief engineer of General Motors’ famous (and ill-fated) EV1 electric car, has left his job as senior vice president at Faraday Future, two sources tell The Verge. The news comes one week after the electric car startup announced layoffs and salary cuts as a result of a fallout with China’s Evergrande Group, which is Faraday Future’s main investor.
Reached by phone Monday, Savagian declined to comment. A representative for Faraday Future did not return requests for comment.
Savagian started at Faraday Future in the summer of 2016. He was one of a number of high-profile hires that helped bolster the company’s credibility in the early going, like former CEO of Ferrari North America Marco Mattiacci (who left in December of 2016), and Tesla’s former director of Model S manufacturing Dag Reckhorn (who is still with the company). Savagian led the development of the powertrain and battery for the company’s luxury electric SUV, the FF91, and was part of Faraday Future’s “senior executive leadership team,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
“He’s the backbone of the company,” says one former employee who requested anonymity because they signed a nondisclosure agreement. “That was THE guy,” says another.
Before joining Faraday Future, Savagian spent 18 years at General Motors, where he led the automaker’s electric propulsion team. He was also the chief engineer of the EV1, which was the company’s — and the industry’s — first serious attempt at mass producing an electric car. The EV1 met an infamous demise that became the focus of the 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? Faraday Future hired at least three other people associated with the EV1 program, and all three are still with the company according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Faraday Future started 2018 on a positive note, announcing in late December that, after a year full of drama and money trouble, it had secured a $2 billion investment. (Evergrande’s involvement was announced in June.) The first $800 million installment, the company said, would be enough to finally get the FF91 into production by the end of the year at a restored factory in Hanford, California. Subsequent $600 million installments would be released by the investor in 2019 and 2020 if the company hit undisclosed production goals.
But Faraday Future spent nearly all of the $800 million by July. CEO Jia Yueting requested an advancement of $700 million, which Evergrande denied. This month, Jia tried to break the deal by filing for arbitration in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre announced last week that Faraday Future could seek up to $500 million in new investment, but didn’t allow the company to split from Evergrande.
In the meantime, Faraday Future is low on cash and decided to resort to layoffs and 20 percent wage cuts for all its workers. Some were cut without severance, or saw the 20 percent cut applied to their final paychecks. Faraday Future has a factory, and has inched closer to production in recent months. But the company now needs to find another new investor to start manufacturing the FF91.
Savagian’s departure means that, if and when that happens, another one of the key people behind the technology that powers the car won’t be there to see it come off the line. In a video of a company event from September, the former GM executive effused about the work he and his fellow employees had accomplished. “Today is a rare time we can stop for a moment and admire our great work,” he said. “We’ve made something great, something we can all be proud of.”