The Chinese electric car start-up NIO is coming to Germany in 2022. NIO's expansion into Europe began a few weeks ago in Norway. In addition to electric cars, the company also brings its unique services to local countries, including battery charging stations. Deputy chief Hui Zhang spoke to Zeit.de about the plans of NIO and the failures of the German carmaker.
NIO is a wake-up call for the German automotive industry: "We are here - and we could perhaps overtake you at some point," said Zhang. Electromobility opens up a new opportunity. Fewer components are required than with the combustion engine, which makes it easier to get started. But the even more significant factor is digitization. Customers now have different demands on car manufacturers, such as constant availability in the car, office, and home. The development towards autonomous driving also supports the fact that new providers are gaining a place in the industry. People today are more open to new brands than they used to be.
NIO is often called the Tesla of China. Zhang has respect for the US industry leader and Volkswagen's electric car activities in recent years. NIO welcomes the competition - the more customers have already bought an e-car, the easier it will be for everyone in the market to do business. The focus of NIO's strategy is customer orientation. "Our goal is to build particularly close customer loyalty. In addition to the car, our starting points for this are a community with its web radio and a kind of customer committee," explained Zhang. The NIO's app has been downloaded almost two million times. You can find events in NIO stores, chat with other users, find out about vehicles, and order merchandise.
In Europe, NIO must first become known and develop a good reputation, said Zhang. European buyers placed particular emphasis on reliability. It is about the quality of the product but also about the long-term reliability of the brand. NIO initially wants to win around 10,000 core customers. These should then pass on their positive experiences. According to the deputy boss, interested parties do not have to worry about quality: NIO is a premium brand with first-class partners worldwide. High-quality software and hardware are already convincing customers in China, and they are significantly more expensive than a comparable Tesla.
A specialty of NIO is battery changing stations, which are now also being set up in Europe after China. The first is being built near Oslo, with three more to follow in the greater Norwegian capital by the end of the year. Next year NIO wants to have 20 changing stations in Norway. By 2025 there should be 4,000 locations worldwide, 1,000 of them outside of China. The company also builds public charging stations and offers charge technology for the home and mobile charging services.
The first four battery changes per month are free at NIO, then the equivalent of 25 euros is due. After that, most customers would charge at home, reported Zhang. The exchange stations are essential for people in cities who do not have their parking lot with a charging station at home. On average, each customer has changed their battery 30 times so far. Many would only do this every two weeks, depending on how far they commute.
"We appeal to politics and industry to also think about new charging technologies. From our point of view, narrowing the debate to charging stations is not expedient if we want to create change successfully," said Zhang. The Chinese government has just set a standard for battery replacement and has taken NIO as a model. Several manufacturers have now announced that they will offer battery swaps, including SAIC, the largest state-owned automaker in China, and Geely, the largest private manufacturer. NIO talked to competitors about cooperations, and Zhang did not want to name names.
In Germany, NIO plans to start by the end of 2022 at the latest. In contrast to Norway, where the large NIO ES8 electric SUV will be sold first, the NIO ET7 premium sedan introduces the brand in this country. @via Zeit.de.