SHANGHAI — Nio, the Chinese electric vehicle startup with swappable batteries and a bobble-headed digital assistant on the dash, aims to expand its lineup with a sedan previewed at the Shanghai auto show.
The ET Preview, unveiled here Tuesday, foreshadows a future four-door that will round out the brand's lineup, which currently consists of two crossovers, Nio CEO William Li said.
Nio hasn't publicly committed to a launch date for the sedan.
But Roger Malkusson, vice president of vehicle engineering, said the ideal rollout cadence is one vehicle a year, meaning a possible launch in 2020.
Nio began deliveries in China of it ES8 electric crossover in June 2018 and has sold 15,337 since. It starts deliveries of the smaller ES6 crossover this June.
Nio has ambitions to someday sell in the U.S. and Europe. But for now, it is focusing on the home market of China.
Its vehicles are manufactured on a contract basis by Chinese state-backed automaker JAC. That plant has capacity to make 100,000 vehicles a year.
By the end of 2019, it should be producing at a rate of 8,000 vehicles a month, covering both crossover modes, Li said.
Li also downplayed a pending class-action lawsuit being mounted against the company in the U.S. on behalf of shareholders.
"We don't think this class-action lawsuit has any material base," Li said in an interview after the reveal of ET Preview. "We already disclosed all facts according to the highest standard."
The lawsuit, announced April 5 by New York law firm Bragar Eagle & Squire, alleges Nio mislead investors about key issues. It says the company failed to disclose that the rollback in government subsidies would materially affect sales and that Nio would be relying on JAC to assemble its vehicles rather than build its own plant.
Li said tapping JAC to manufacture product was a plus for the company and investors because it required a lot less capital.
"It will benefit them," Li said.
Dropping plans to build its own factory in Shanghai, he added, is also aligned with a new government policy that endorses such manufacturing partnerships.