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Move over, Tesla: Chinese firm behind Faraday Future unveils 1st sedan-type electric vehicle

Move over, Tesla: Chinese firm behind Faraday Future unveils 1st sedan-type electric vehicle
LeEco Chief Executive Jia Yuetingand co-founder Ding Lei with the LeSEE, the company's first mainstream model car, in Beijing. (Courtesy of LeEco)

LeEco, the Chinese company behind the secretive Gardena automaker Faraday Future, unveiled its first mainstream-model car Wednesday in Beijing: a sleek, white four-door electric sedan with suicide doors called the LeSEE.

The company had shown a Batmobile-esque electric vehicle called the FFZERO1 at the CES show in Las Vegas in January. But with its single-seat configuration and -- if it ever goes into limited production -- almost certainly sky-high price tag (executives didn't comment on it), the FFZERO1 concept car appeared unlikely to become ubiquitous anytime soon.

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The LeSEE, in contrast, appears to be in the vein of the Tesla S. SEE is an acronym meaning Super Electronic Ecosystem Plan.

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For the record

April 20, 10:10 a.m.: The headline on an earlier version of this post stated that the LeSEE was LeEco's first electric vehicle. It is its first sedan-type electric vehicle.

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LeEco Chief Executive Jia Yueting touted the car's user-friendly features including memory foam seats, automatic driving mode and a steering wheel that folds toward the dash when the car is in autopilot mode to give the driver more space.

The LeSee's features including memory foam seats and automatic driving mode.
The LeSee's features including memory foam seats and automatic driving mode. (Courtesy of LeEco)

Jia did not reveal the price of the LeSEE or say when it would go into production. Faraday Future broke ground on its factory in North Las Vegas but has been vague about what it plans to produce there -- and when.

Nick Sampson, Faraday's senior vice president of research and development and product development, said at CES that Faraday's first production car would be a premium product, with a premium price.

Although a production vehicle is apparently still a ways out, Faraday has generated significant buzz since its inception 18 months ago. In that time, it has grown to 750 employees worldwide and been touted as a possible rival to Tesla.

The steering wheel folds toward the dashboard when the car is in autopilot mode to give the driver more space.
The steering wheel folds toward the dashboard when the car is in autopilot mode to give the driver more space. (Courtesy of LeEco)

LeEco also has a electric vehicle partnership with British carmaker Aston Martin. The car could be made in the U.S., China or elsewhere, Ding Lei, co-founder and global vice chairman of LeEco, said when asked about manufacturing.

Aston Martin is working on an electric vehicle called the RapidE.

Asked how much the LeSEE would cost, Ding refused to give specifics but referred to the company's model of pricing its other hardware, such as mobile phones, below the actual cost to make them and then trying to make up the loss by selling services to customers.

He declined to specify a time frame for the start of manufacturing, saying only "the sooner the better."

Ding, in introducing the vehicle's features, noted that it would be able to recognize, and display to other motorists, the gender of the driver.



Asked about the purpose of this feature later, Ding said: "the ecosystem can recognize the status and skills of the driver to help the driver to drive steadily. For example if the driver is a young female and if she's a bit nervous, it can help her find the way. Please don't get us wrong; this is just to differentiate various types of customers to help them drive safely."

LeEco will show the LeSEE at the Beijing Auto Show, which begins next week.

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The company unveiled the car at a three-hour media event where it also showed off its line of flat-screen TVs, smartphones and virtual-reality headsets. During the presentation, Jia -- who has adopted a Steve Jobs-like wardrobe of blue jeans and black shirt -- repeatedly emphasized how his company's products were superior to those of far more established rivals, including Apple and Samsung.

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