Last Fall a new pretender arrived in the world’s most advanced electric vehicle market. Nio – aka the ‘Chinese Tesla
And Nio didn’t pick an out-of-town dealership to announce its arrival, instead landing in Oslo’s prime shopping district with a 20,000 sq ft store that includes its EVs, a café, merchandise and a lifestyle environment in a country where around three quarters of new auto sales are electric.
That’s worth repeating. Three quarters of Norway’s new auto sales are EVs.
But while Nio’s first foreign market is Norway, it will not be its last. This year its stated plan is to open ‘Nio Houses’ in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and the U.K., adding to nearly 60 in China. By 2025, Nio is targeting a presence in 25 markets, the U.S. included among those.
Nio has pitched to compete with the likes of Lexus and the top German luxury brands and the first statement of intent was to build a $3 million supercar – the Nio ES9 – in order to scoop an armful of eye-catching world records.
There is one on show as a scene stealer in the showroom of the Nio House in Oslo.
Next came the development of the Nio ES8 SUV and so, in Oslo, shoppers can browse a supercar, two SUVs and a concept car with a single side door and rear seats that face each other in a nod to an autonomous driving future.
Furthermore, at the start of July Nio announced delivery of 12,961 vehicles in June 2022, up 60.3% year-on-year, while a month earlier the ES7 five-seater SUV was also launched.
Nio Battery As A Service
The striking difference between Nio and its competitors is what it dubs ‘battery as a service’. Nio is offering not just a chain of fast charging stations, like Tesla, plus a fleet of mobile and roadside assistance charging units, but also a battery swapping service completed in under five minutes, including entering and leaving the station.
By the end of this year the Chinese automaker aims to have installed 20 power swapping station in Norway’s five largest cities and along the country’s main roads. The first should be up and running this October.
In other words, drivers will be able to leave a swap station with a full battery in less time than it would take to fill a conventional auto with gas.
And the Nio House Oslo is distinctly not a dealership, but rather, says the company, a community center. Browsers and buyers will find a library, barista-staffed coffee bar, children’s play corner, meeting rooms, work locations, and even a ping-pong table.
Deliberately sited along Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s busiest shopping thoroughfare, it is only a stone’s throw from the city’s premium shopping district, with a burgeoning international fashion brand quarter and a revitalized Steen & Strom department store.
Nio App And Retail Store
Nio has also launched an app that offers very generous loyalty points plus partnerships with a host of other brands. Users don’t need to own a Nio and just downloading the app and setting up a profile provides enough points to get a free coffee at the Nio cafe.
Users can also spend points on merchandise, plus items like wine and gifts, with new offers on a regular basis, including limited series merchandise and Nio-sponsored events. A referral can be worth up to $150, while even regularly logging in earns more free coffee.
Yet Nio has not been without its problems. Shares peaked at the start of 2021 at around $61 but are currently languishing nearer $21, not helped by a recent accident at a Chinese facility involving one of its autos that killed two people, or Audi’s legal action against Nio over the similarity of two of its vehicle names to its own EVs.
Nio is contesting that action but bad news has had a persistent way of sticking to the Chinese auto maker and analysts are ambivalent about prospects for share price recovery any time soon.
For now, that does not seem to be deflecting the Norwegian locals and international tourists thronging Oslo’s retail quarter.
Nio House has been opened to make a brand statement and before long a host of new countries will get their introduction to the Tesla of the East.