December 14, 2016 / 9:43 PM / a year ago

Chinese billionaire's EV startups map ambitious plans

DETROIT/SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Three electric-vehicle startups funded by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting will show off new prototype vehicles at the giant CES 2017 trade show in Las Vegas next month, with one of the companies privately mapping out an ambitious 10-year, 12-vehicle rollout, according to two former executives.

But even as the three companies start to unveil prototypes, they still have not said how they plan to fund their efforts to challenge Tesla Motors Inc in the luxury electric vehicle market.

One of three, Faraday Future, plans to introduce a dozen new vehicles through 2026, according to two former executives who declined to speak on the record.

On Wednesday, another of the companies, California-based Lucid Motors, unveiled a prototype of a luxury sedan it hopes to begin building in Arizona in late 2018. Lucid, formerly named Atieva, plans to follow the launch of its premium electric with a pair of luxury crossovers in 2020-2021, company executives told Reuters in June.

In November, Jia said the third electric vehicle company he is backing, Beijing-based LeEco, faced a shortage of cash and was suffering from expanding too fast, in too many directions. Weeks later, LeEco’s parent, Leshi Holdings, said it had secured commitments in China for $600 million to support LeEco.

Jia’s plan to build three factories - one for each brand - is expected to cost at least $3.5 billion, according to estimates from each company. Design and engineering could boost startup costs by another $1 billion or more, according to sources familiar with Jia’s strategy.

Faraday has said it will unveil a prototype of its first production vehicle at CES, but so far has declined to provide details. The former executives describe the vehicle - internally dubbed Project 91 - as a large, luxury flagship sedan designed to sell for $150,000-$200,000, or more than the most expensive Tesla. It is slated for production in early 2018, Faraday has said.

A second model, dubbed Project 81 and due about a year later, is a mid-size crossover slotted in size and price between the Tesla Model S and Model X. Faraday plans a third, less expensive model to debut around 2020.

A Faraday spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday.

Faraday started building a $1 billion assembly plant outside Las Vegas. However, work stopped in November after Faraday missed several payments to the building contractor, according to a Nevada state official.

LeEco, whose U.S. headquarters is in San Jose, earlier this year showed a prototype of its first vehicle, a self-driving luxury car called LeSEE, and later announced plans to build its own $1.8 billion factory in Hangzhou, China. (Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Alexandria Sage in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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