China is the leader in electric car manufacturing, but few of those cars make it to the United States, primarily because cars from China are subject to a 25% import duty. Now media outlets in China are reporting that Nio, one of the largest of the new crop of Chinese electric car manufacturers, is considering a factory in the US, which would be one way to avoid some or all of those import tariffs.
Nio has declined to confirm or deny the reports, but CnEVPost has put together a number of clues that point in that direction. Citing local news source Yicai, it says Nio is hiring for positions including overseas manufacturing planning specialists, body process specialists for overseas projects, overseas planning and infrastructure specialists, and overseas logistics project managers.
The job description for the planning specialists requires candidates to have been responsible for two or more complete master plan projects, with at least one in the US. Candidates for this position also need to be familiar with and understand US state policies, design codes and planning submission processes, and be familiar with US process planning and master plan principles.
“Nio is supposed to have the intention of building a plant in the US. The position requires knowledge of US state policies and subsequent involvement in plant site selection in the US,” a person who has been involved in plant construction for Chinese car companies on several occasions tells Yicai.
Nio currently has a self-driving R&D center in San Jose, California, as well as a software development team there. The company is also hiring planning and infrastructure specialists in San Jose. The requirements for those positions include knowledge of regulatory processes in the industrial real estate industry.
A source tells Yicai the job descriptions for overseas logistics project manager and overseas project body process specialist suggest a US factory could operate in CKD (Completely Knocked Down) or SKD (Semi Knocked Down) mode, in which large components are imported from China and assembled in the US.
The Nio Day Event
December 18, 2021 was Nio Day and founder William Li used that occasion to lay out the company’s vision for the future. Li said at that time Nio will enter Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark in 2022. It has already begun selling cars in Norway.
The goal is to sell its products in 25 countries and regions worldwide by 2025, Li said, without specifying which countries and regions would be included. According to media reports at the time, the US, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand were all included in the market expansion plan.
“We are certainly a Chinese company, but also a company founded and supported by global resources, with our colleagues coming from more than 40 countries,” Li said in a December 19 interview with English-language media, including CnEVPost. The company is strongly focused on making more “smart” EVs. European and American automakers manufacture excellent products but Nio also has a very unique experience and unique competitiveness, Li said.
If Nio comes to the US, it could put pressure on American automakers, especially if it offers vehicles that are more affordable than domestic models. That’s how the Japanese brands got started in America, and the cars from South Korea followed the same model. The key will be price. Nio could offer the affordable EVs that Tesla, Ford, GM, and Stellantis don’t, which would be a huge boost to consumers who want to drive electric but who find today’s offerings too expensive for their budgets.
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