Chinese smart electric vehicle (EV) maker Nio launched its seventh and eighth production models during the annual “Nio Day” event on Sunday. With the EC7, a sports utility vehicle (SUV), and the ES8, a full-size SUV, Nio aims to take on premium petrol cars made by German marques such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The SUVs come fitted with Lidar sensors and Nvidia Orin chips, considered to be the best automobile chips in the world. The basic edition of the EC7, which can go as far as 490 kilometres on a single charge, is priced at 488,000 yuan (US$69,817). The entry-level ES8, with a driving range of 465km, is priced at 528,000 yuan. “Smart EVs will be increasingly well received by wealthy motorists,” William Li, co-founder and CEO of the Shanghai-based carmaker, said during an online media briefing on Sunday. “The trend is irreversible.” Nio is being blackmailed by hacker for US$2.25 million after data breach The launches come amid a slowing market. They also coincide with a growing preference for cheaper vehicles among Chinese motorists. Li, however, said that he hoped the mainland Chinese EV market – the world’s largest – would regain growth momentum in May 2023, when Nio starts delivering the new models to customers. “We predict that production and sales in the domestic EV industry will still be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic early next year,” he said. “The scrapping of cash subsidies may also siphon off buying interest initially.” Nio makes plans to avoid production loss ahead of China’s zero-Covid exit Beijing will phase out cash subsidies for EV buyers on January 1. Currently, consumers who buy an EV with a driving range of more than 400 kilometres can receive a subsidy of 12,600 yuan. Nio, Guangzhou-based Xpeng and Beijing-headquartered Li Auto are China’s top three premium EV makers, competing against Tesla’s Shanghai-based Gigafactory 3. In the first 11 months of this year, Nio delivered 106,671 cars, a year-on-year increase of 31.8 per cent. “More middle-class consumers targeting vehicles priced at about 500,000 yuan will choose battery-powered cars with intelligent features such as autonomous driving technology,” said Eric Han, a senior manager at Suolei, an advisory firm in Shanghai. “The key question is when can manufacturing and commercial activities [across the country] be fully restored.” China’s Nio cuts waiting time for its EVs as production returns to normal Sales of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) , which comprise pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars, fell 9 per cent month on month to 556,000 units in October, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). Although sales rose 73.2 per cent year on year, their pace was the slowest in six months in October.