What the Chinese start-up Nio intends to do with the ET7 electric car
Dhe eyes jingle, his face turns towards the driver, and a charming computer lady stretches out her hand: “Hello, I’m Nomi and I’m happy to be in Europe.” Chinese newcomer Nio, who, after four years at home and a short foreplay in Norway, now wants to deliver the first copies of his flagship ET7 to Germany in October.
Especially not when he competes with this 5.10 meter long sedan with a good 650 hp in the luxury class of all places, where you need a broad chest and pointed elbows to prove yourself against Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche. And of course against Tesla. After all, Nio – how could it be any different for a start-up today – only builds electric cars.
Nio, founded in China in 2014 and on the streets there since 2018, should certainly allow itself a few louder tones. After all, the company is considered by many market observers to be the most promising Tesla competitor and is sometimes even traded as a “Tesla killer”. The fact that the share price surpassed that of BMW when it went public certainly didn’t damage William Li’s self-confidence.
Li is the man behind Nio and something of the Chinese answer to Elon Musk. Not only are they both about the same age, they both brought a large portion of their even larger private fortune into the company. But that’s pretty much where the parallels end, says Li, who has never met Musk and doesn’t know what else to exchange other than a few polite phrases on the electric missionaries’ first date. Li is much quieter than Musk, is politely reserved on Twitter and does not get involved in politics, nor does he seek the salvation of mankind on Mars. “After all, we have enough problems to solve here on earth that we have to deal with new ones in space.”
Lots of ups and downs
But the friendly scam is deceptive. Just as the digital assistant “Nomi” comes along in a decidedly challenging car, Li himself is no less ambitious than his alter ego on the other side of the Pacific. “By 2030 we want to be among the five largest car manufacturers in the world,” he says. It doesn’t matter whether that means four, five or six million cars a year by then, that’s a more than ambitious goal. Because Nio is currently producing just 250,000 cars – not every year, but since the start of production in 2018. “But we’re just getting started,” says Li, who made the move to Germany and shortly afterwards to the The Netherlands, after Denmark and Sweden, is taking the “next step in global development” and wants to reach 25 countries by 2025: “We’re running a marathon here and we’re still on the first 1,000 meters.”
And they weren’t a walk in the park either. Because like so many start-ups, Nio has already gone through pretty much all the ups and downs, has been repeatedly hyped on the stock market, but has also faced bankruptcy several times and has only survived with state money. Although the situation has just calmed down a bit and the market value has leveled off at around 30 billion, Li admits that there can be no talk of profits yet. “But it also took Tesla 16 years before they were profitable,” the company boss points out and still adds: “We don’t want to take that long.”