Nio unveils second electric sedan to rival Tesla Model 3

The all-electric ET5 was revealed by founder and chief executive William Li at the annual Nio Day event in Suzhou on Dec 18. PHOTO: NIO/FACEBOOK

SUZHOU (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese electric carmaker Nio unveiled its second sedan, which will compete more directly against Tesla's most popular Model 3. The all-electric ET5 was revealed by founder and chief executive William Li at the annual Nio Day event in Suzhou on Saturday (Dec 18).

With a starting price of 328,000 yuan (S$70,000) before government subsidies, and 258,000 yuan with a leased battery, the most basic variant is designed to drive 550km on a single charge. The post-subsidy price for an entry-level Tesla Model 3 in China is 255,652 yuan.

The ET5 will be available in September 2022. Its launch follows that of Nio's first and more expensive ET7 electric sedan - which Mr Li sees as a rival to Tesla's Model S - and where deliveries are scheduled to start in March.

Nio is also expected to unveil another electric vehicle in 2022.

"ET5 is a key product of us, as Nio has long focused on sports utility vehicles," Mr Li in an interview with Bloomberg last Saturday.

"We've been looking forward to a model with a more suitable price and a larger consumer base."

Nio last Saturday also gave a road map of its international expansion strategy, after a foray into Norway earlier this year. The Shanghai-based company announced plans to enter Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden in 2022, and reach 25 countries by 2025. It also seeks access to the United States market.

Nio has entered a strategic partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, and the two will co-establish battery swapping, recharging, and energy storage infrastructure in China, Europe, and the US, Mr Li said in a group interview on Sunday. The company will not rule out opportunities to build plants overseas if "there was enough need out there", he said.

Mr Li also commended the determination of legacy automakers such as Volkswagen to shift into electrification.

"Their brand, engineering, supply chain, and sales and service networks are all valuable assets, and the earlier they make the determination to produce electrified and intelligent products, the better it would be," he said. "We won't be able to see how far-reaching the impact would be until maybe four years later."

Nio delivered 10,878 cars in November and a total of 80,940 units - all SUVs - in the first 11 months of this year. Like its peers, it has also struggled with supply chain constraints, while plans for a Hong Kong listing have been delayed.

More automotive chip output will be released in the middle or the third quarter of the next year, said Mr Li, adding it should not affect the scheduled delivery of the ET5, though "even the shortage of one single chip of the over 1,000 units equipped on our car may affect the production".

As Nio is a Chinese company listed in the US, Mr Li said investors have raised concerns, particularly after the travails of Didi Global. The ride-hailing giant struggled since its share debut in July and is now withdrawing from US stock exchanges, a stunning reversal as it yields to demands from Chinese regulators that had opposed its American listing due to worries about potential leakage of sensitive data.

"We hope political issues won't affect much of a company's growth, and we, for sure, will abide by the local laws and regulations," Mr Li said.

Nio is expanding its product lineup from SUVs to compact cars to widen its appeal in China's increasingly competitive EV market, where sales are forecast to surge 47 per cent to five million units next year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

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