NIO Is Creating An Exclusive EV Ecosystem To Lure In New Buyers

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60 Minutes spent some time with NIO co-founder William Li in a push to better understand the niche that the company is carving out in the emerging Chinese EV market.

In response to repeated questions about how similar NIO is to Tesla, Li shared that NIO is building a market for itself as a lifestyle brand. Above every NIO dealership is an exclusive clubhouse that is reserved for owners. Think about it like the airport lounge, where frequent fliers stop in to grab some food and drink before putting their feet up as they wait for their next connection.

The so-called NIO House clubhouses provide a similar experience, but in urban settings where they offer similar amenities, with a much more social focus. They offer classes like flower arrangement, and aim to become the ‘third place’ in the lives of their consumers, complementing the day to day of going from home to work and back. Because these NIO Houses are for owners only, it is quickly becoming the members-only club with a $60,000 USD price tag for entry.

NIO itself stands for ‘blue sky coming’ and represents the idea that anything is possible in the future we are building. Having sold only 10,000 vehicles, the company is still in its infancy, much like Tesla was just a few years back as it worked to ramp up production of the Model S, but with so much support from the government, electric vehicles and NIO are poised to become an indispensable part of Chinese transportation.

The government already mandates that at least 10% of all vehicles produced in the country by each manufacturer are electric and that number is expected to grow as the country continues its assault on urban air pollution. These mandates are supported on the consumer side, with rebates of up to $10,000 in some cities. Shanghai takes that up a notch, where the vehicle license fee that is required to even purchase a vehicle in the city is waived – a $12-13,000 freebie for EV buyers.

Support in its home market is critical for NIO as it works to establish itself not only as a formidable domestic EV company, but a global contender. For the last two years, it has competed in the Formula E, where it is pushing the limits of its electric vehicle technology and showcasing its brand on the global stage.

Platforms like Formula E help NIO to demonstrate the quality of its products as part of a much broader rebranding of Chinese-made goods. For decades, ‘Made in China’ has been synonymous with cheap, low quality goods, but in recent years, the country has pivoted away from high volume, low cost, and low quality goods to high tech, higher quality goods that can compete in global markets.

NIO is looking to build on the recent rebranding of Chinese products to establish a bridge into the lucrative auto markets in the US and Europe. A key piece of NIO’s strategy to accomplish this starts in California’s Silicon Valley, where it has established its US headquarters and R&D center, with 600 coders hard at work inventing the NIO of tomorrow. Leveraging a globally distributed team of experts allows NIO to bring in the best of the US into its products, to ensure they meet the high standards of consumers that are currently considering competing vehicles like Tesla’s Model 3, the Jaguar I-PACE and Rivian’s R1S/R1T are looking for.

NIO Battery Swap Stations

That’s for the future, but for today, NIO has plenty of market to work with in its home territory of China. Its ES8 SUV was built to impress with a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds, 220 miles per charge and 650 horsepower. The $60,000 vehicle also comes with an integrated personal assistant, though she only speaks Chinese today, adding more languages is a small hurdle to overcome to open up new markets.

Have a look at the full 60 Minutes piece on NIO to see the car in action before making your decision about whether or not you think NIO will actually be able to bring its vision of a ‘blue sky coming’ to consumers today.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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