Editor's note: An earlier version of this story listed the wrong year for when SF Motors' parent company, Sokon, began making cars. Production began in 2005. The story also incorrectly described the relationship between affiliated companies LeEco and Faraday Future.
SAN FRANCISCO — SF Motors has been quietly setting up shop in the U.S., establishing a manufacturing presence and acquiring talent as its fellow Chinese competitors struggle with funding challenges following flashy product launches.
SF Motors is a nearly 2-year-old subsidiary of Chinese automaker Chongqing Sokon Industry Group of Chongqing, China. With corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., a factory in Indiana and a research facility 45 minutes outside Detroit, the company is gearing up to introduce plans for its first premium EVs to the U.S. — a historically tough market for Chinese automakers — this spring.
Recent attempts by Chinese EV makers started with flashy press events and quickly crashed and burned. In May, LeEco announced it was laying off the majority of its U.S. work force. LeEco is affiliated with Faraday Future, which also makes EVs, as they are both funded by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting. Faraday has seen an exodus of executives, is low on cash and is facing multiple lawsuits.
SF Motors, which employs some former LeEco and Faraday Future workers, said it has learned from its competitors' mistakes, shying away from over-the-top press events until it has the product and infrastructure to back up its announcements, an SF Motors spokeswoman said.
But with the October acquisition of Inevit, a battery and electric powertrain startup founded by Tesla Inc. co-founder Martin Eberhard, and the completed acquisition of the former AM General plant in Mishawaka, Ind., SF Motors has been attracting more attention and could pose as a legitimate competitor in the U.S. EV market.