(Yicai Global) July 24 -- Jia Yueting, the founder of Leshi Holding (Beijing) Co., better known by the LeEco brand, is still in California to tie up some loose ends but will return to China in the near future, two sources close to the billionaire entrepreneur said, denying media reports that Jia returned on July 20.
The news of Jia’s arrival in Los Angeles to oversee Le Supercar operations gave rise to speculation that he has already fled the country. He responded to the rumors with a Weibo post by another executive manager at the company, showing that he had been busy with work in the US.
Jia‘s main concern at present is obtaining funding for Leshi-backed US electric car startup Faraday Future and the mass production of the FF 91 model. The vehicle, promoted as the world's fastest electric car, is Jia’s biggest hope after LeEco’s financial troubles saw him resign as chairman of its listed arm, Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp. Beijing [SHE:300104].
Jia delayed his return to China in order to meet Ulrich Kranz, former BMW senior president, head of BMW i and Faraday Future’s new chief technology officer, media reported last week. As well as Kranz, the carmaker’s chief financial officer and designers came from BMW i.
A funding shortage and setbacks in plant construction have fueled uncertainty about FF’s mass production plan. The firm originally planned to build an EV assembling plant in North Las Vegas, Nevada, but construction at the site has been suspended since last November due to a cash crisis.
The firm confirmed construction of the plant has been shelved, and it’s looking for a new site to begin mass production as soon as possible. Faraday will release details of the new site in the coming weeks, a company statement said.
Jia will instead use an existing facility to expedite FF 91 production, a source at the company said. It will build a new plant once it has the financial resources. The new plant is in central California and only a few hours’ drive from the carmaker’s headquarters in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, he disclosed.
The change of plan does not mean that an original equipment manufacturer will produce the FF 91, the source added. Faraday will buy an existing production line, and then work on equipment procurement, plant transformation and production independently in order to achieve mass production earlier. Purchasing an existing production line also costs less than building a new plant.
FF’s public relations department denies that the company will relocate to Mare Island in Vallejo, North California. The firm held talks on developing its second plant on the island with the local government last year, but the plan ran aground due to financial issues early this year.