It seems like something out of a movie: a mysterious startup company operates for a few years in total secrecy, then drops plans for a billion-dollar factory that will build electric cars.

But that's the summary of the secretive Faraday Future, about which a bit more information slipped out last week.

Faraday (it suggests you call it "FF") issued a press release last week saying it would spend $1 billion on the factory, with production of its first vehicle to start in 2017.

DON'T MISS: Faraday Future Plans $1 Billion Electric-Car Factory, Site TBD

That in itself seems challenging--24 months from greenfield site to rolling assembly lines is hugely ambitious--but thanks to some investigative reporting, we know a bit more about the company.

For one thing, it's apparently backed by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting.

Image from Faraday Futures online sites, July 2015

Image from Faraday Futures online sites, July 2015

He founded Leshi Internet Information & Technology and is listed by Forbes as China's 17th richest person, with a fortune estimated at $7 billion.

Faraday's incorporation papers, The Los Angeles Times said last week, reveal ties to LeTV, the Chinese media company operated by Jia.

The paper notes that he launched a line of smartphones recently, and has acquired 70 percent of Uber-like car service Yidao Yongche in China.

It calls Jia "a Chinese multibillionaire with towering ambitions and an equally tall pile of cash." LeTV claims to have sold 1 million of its Le SuperPhone in just five months.

Earlier this year, he had spoken to the media about his ambitions to develop an electric car--but only now has the connection to Faraday Future emerged.

ALSO SEE: Faraday Futures: Startup Promises Long-Range Electric Car In 2017

The connection to Jia appears to quell discussion that Faraday is actually the secretive car project said to be in development by Apple.

The company now has roughly 400 employees, and the name of a CEO has emerged as well: Chaoying Deng.

FF spokesperson Stacy Morris, however, told the LA Times that she is not actively involved in the company's day-to-day operations, and her name was "just on paper."

Faraday Future

Faraday Future

Faraday largely appears to be following the game plan laid out by Tesla Motors. One vendor said it had been quite open about seeing itself as "China's response to Tesla."

It will make a more expensive model first, then branch out into less pricey vehicles for the mass market, said senior vice president Nick Sampson.

He ran Tesla' vehicle and chassis engineering for the Model S before decamping to Faraday in 2012; he's also worked at British sports-car maker Lotus.

Sampson was joined by Dag Reckhorn, a former Tesla senior manufacturing executive, as well as a host of employees with backgrounds at BMW, General Motors, and other global carmakers.

He said that Faraday's first vehicle won't fit into known vehicle categories, but revealed little beyond that.

Image from Faraday Futures online sites, July 2015

Image from Faraday Futures online sites, July 2015

It may have some self-driving functions and could even be sold using a subscription or shared ownership model, in which buyers can draw on the car's services when needed, but not necessarily own it and have full-time control over it.

The company, Sampson told New York Daily Intelligencer, envisions the car like a smart phone: "The revenue starts once you get the device in the owners’ hands. We’re looking at subscriptions and apps and other opportunities."

“Our business model is not based around moving a car out of the dealer,” Sampson explained.

Meanwhile, the company is evaluating potential manufacturing sites in California, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, it said, and will make its decision "in the coming weeks."


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