China’s NIO automotive company (formerly known as NextEV), first made headlines in 2016 when it raised over a billion dollars in seed money.  The company indicates on its website that their goal is to be a world leader in both the all-electric vehicle (EV) and autonomous vehicle markets. NIO’s successes have been laudable, although recent setbacks have critics wondering: is NIO the real deal or will they be the next EV car company to bite the dust?

Headquartered in Shanghai, NIO was founded in 2014 by William Li,  chairman of the Chinese automotive marketing giant Bitauto.  Several international conglomerates such as Sequoia and Lenovo have invested in the company, making it a heavy hitter in the Chinese EV market. NIO began selling their line of cars in 2018, selling over 8,000 units that year. Forecasters expect NIO to triple that number in 2019.

NIO’s offerings are currently only available in mainland China although the company plans to begin selling in the United States in 2020. NIO is currently producing  3 models: the ES6 crossover SUV, the ES8 large SUV, and the ridiculously gorgeous EP9 coupe. NIO’s EVE concept is the company’s vision of what they believe is the car of the future. The interior of the EVE looks more like my bedroom than say, the interior of a car. It’s clear that NIO’s aim is to completely eradicate the need for human drivers.

NIO has had a rough 2019. In May the company laid off around 70 Bay Area employees, with a company spokesperson telling, ““After four years of rapid growth, we’ve set up a global organization. However, fast development has also posed issues like repetitive functional departments, undefined work tasks, unclear work responsibilities, and insufficient work for certain people. We would like to solve them by optimizing management efficiency this year.”

In June, the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation recalled almost 5,000 ES8 SUVs  sold in 2018 due to defective battery packs. Three of these battery packs had previously spontaneously combusted. The company’s stock has since tanked, losing roughly 60% of its value since the beginning of the year.

Despite these setbacks, NIO is not out of the game yet. J.D. Power recently named NIO the leader in their new China New Energy Vehicle Experience Index Study. This study measures vehicle quality by analyzing problems reported by buyers within the first 6 months of ownership.  Nearly 3,000 new EV owners in China were surveyed, and the study covered more than 40 models from 21 brands.

NIO has also introduced a series a battery swapping stations in an effort to curb buyer fears about range. These stations opened in August and will service 9 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Nio’s Vice President of User Centers Steven Zhao was quoted as saying, “Nio is a new player in the vehicle industry, and the first question we have to answer is, ‘Why do people really need a car?’ This is a foundational question. If we cannot give the right answer, we don’t have any opportunity to become a huge player in this industry.”

Let’s hope they find the answer that they are looking for.

Source | Image: Wikimedia Commons