Electric carmaker NIO confident of beating Tesla in Chinese market

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 10:43pm

Chinese carmaker NIO is confident it can surpass competitors like Tesla in the Chinese market with its first mass-produced electric SUV, thanks to its knowledge of the domestic market and a sophisticated ecosystem of services, according to an executive from the company’s investment arm.

NIO was founded in 2014 by William Li and counts heavyweights such as Tencent, Baidu and Sequoia Capital among its investors. In April, the company unveiled the production model of its electric sports utility vehicle (SUV), the NIO ES8 at the Shanghai Auto Show.

The ES8 is expected to go on sale in early 2018, according to the company. The launch of the SUV will also pit NIO directly against companies like Tesla, which launched its Model X SUV in China last year.

Ian Zhu, partner at NIO Capital, an investment arm formed by NIO, Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital, said the vehicles will be produced to the “highest global standards” and are specifically tailored to the requirements of Chinese consumers while remaining competitive both in performance and price compared to rival automakers.

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“Companies like Tesla have been successful and they’ve built a good product, but when it comes to the Chinese market, NIO has an advantage in that it knows its customers and the market needs better,” Zhu said on the sidelines of this week’s TechCrunch Shenzhen conference.

The ES8 will come with various connected features, and even the entertainment systems within the car will be designed specifically for Chinese consumers, although Zhu declined to elaborate on further details.

“NIO’s founders are veterans of the automotive industry in China who know what a customer wants, from the design to the launch of the first vehicle,” he said. “NIO intends to have closer contact with its customers … to provide them with a great mobility experience.”

Zhu added that the company also focuses on designing and manufacturing key components by itself, and is able to leverage the existing supply chain that has already been built by other carmakers to produce a quality vehicle.

To help bolster NIO’s car ecosystem, NIO Capital is also investing in an array of industries that can contribute to building up the company’s ecosystem of services, including connected vehicles and autonomous driving.

The company expects to have its first autonomous car on the US market by 2020.

NextEV has already showcased the prowess of its autonomous driving technology – its limited-production EP9 electric supercar has broken autonomous lap records in the United States, achieving a lap time of 2 minutes and 40 seconds at the Circuit of the Americas Formula One track in Austin, Texas.

In May, the EP9 also became the fastest street-legal vehicle to lap Germany’s renowned Nurburgring track with a time of 6 minutes and 45 seconds.