Faraday begins trading, aims for launch of high-end crossover vehicle

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DETROIT, July 22 (Reuters) - Electric carmaker Faraday Future on Thursday officially begins life as a publicly traded stock after shareholders of the blank-check money it merged with approved the deal, and the chief executive has a product roadmap that includes a South Korean manufacturing partner.

Faraday closed its merger with Property Solutions Acquisition Corp (PSAC.O) on Wednesday, giving the Los Angeles-based EV maker about $1 billion in proceeds to fund the rollout of the FF 91 crossover from its Hanford, California, plant in a year, Carsten Breitfeld told Reuters in an interview.

The FF 91, starting with the premium model priced above $200,000, will launch at small volumes to ensure high quality and establish the Faraday brand before it begins moving down into higher-volume segments, he said.

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"Our strategy starting from the top as a halo product is not only the right way to define a premium brand, but it puts us in a very safe position to launch at high quality at the beginning," said Breitfeld, a former BMW (BMWG.DE) executive who also co-founded Chinese EV startup Byton before leaving in early 2019.

Faraday, which agreed to be taken public by the special-purpose acquisition company in January, initially planned to launch its FF 91 car in 2019. However, it faced multiple production delays owing to financing issues. read more

Once one of the more hyped EV startups, Faraday burned through $2 billion in cash and its founder Jia Yueting finalized his personal bankruptcy filing last year.

The FF 91, which will compete with Maybach, Bentley and Rolls Royce, will launch with plans to build only 300 of the premium Futurist Alliance model before offering a less costly version at slightly higher volumes, Breitfeld said. The Hanford plant will start with an annual capacity of 10,000 vehicles and the ability to expand to 30,000 with modest investment.

The vehicle will initially be sold in the U.S. market, followed by China five months later and eventually Europe, he said. Battery cells for the vehicle will initially be supplied by LG Chem's (051910.KS) LG Energy Solution unit.

Thirty months from now, Faraday will launch the FF 81, a smaller crossover built on the same platform by the company's contract manufacturer in South Korea, MS Auto Tech(123040.KQ), Breitfeld said. The FF 81 will start at over $70,000, and compete with Tesla's (TSLA.O) Model S and Model X vehicles.

Faraday will have the option to build up to 270,000 vehicles annually at the Korean plant, he said.

Faraday has not closed a deal yet for China's Geely (GEELY.UL) to be the startup's contract manufacturer in that market, Breitfeld said. The more mainstream FF 71, starting at around $45,000 and built on a different platform, is planned for early 2025. read more

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Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by David Evans

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