For about two years, the Nio EP9 sports car prototype had the fastest lap time of any electric vehicle on the grueling Nuerburgring Nordschleife at 6:45.90. Although the EP9's record fell last month to the Volkswagen IDR, the result proved that Nio's innovative technology could compete with the world's best. Nio founder and CEO William Li spoke to Automotive News Europe Correspondent Christiaan Hetzner during the Shanghai auto show about the EV maker's plans for Europe, competing with German rivals in China and the need for fresh funding after listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
The best chance for a Chinese automaker to break into the European market is with EVs. Does Europe appeal to you?
Yes. We want to be a global brand. We have almost 200 people in Munich, for example. But we are still a very young company and have limited resources. If we expand abroad, we should be profitable. That's why we should be very careful when we expand outside of China because it's very easy to enter a market, but very hard to survive and win.
German brands dominate the Chinese premium car market. How can Nio break though?
We just entered the segment with a vehicle that is not cheap, it [the ES8] costs about $75,000. As a competitor to the Audi Q7 seven-seat premium large SUV, we have a market share of more than 10 percent, and that is just the beginning.
Do you see the German automakers as dinosaurs that are too slow to react to new trends?
They are powerful, have lots of money and they are already changing. So while they may be giants, I do not see them as moving slowly. As a startup, however, we need to move faster.
You showed the ET Preview concept sedan at the Shanghai auto show in April. When will this Tesla Model 3 rival debut?
That was just to show the car's styling. We will gather the feedback and then decide when and how to launch a sedan in that segment.
What's next for Nio?
We have started delivering the ES6 SUV that competes with the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC. Our performance is better, our service is better, maintenance and operating costs are lower and charging is much more affordable than filling up with gasoline. Not only that, the license plate is free [in Chinese cities such as Beijing the plate can cost more than the vehicle] and you don't need to leave it at home one day out of the workweek [to comply with driving restrictions in China to reduce air pollution].