Last fall, a new pretender entered the world’s most advanced electric vehicle market. Nio – also known as the ‘Chinese Tesla’
And Nio didn’t choose an out-of-town dealership to herald her arrival, but instead landed in Oslo’s main shopping district with a 20,000-square-foot store that includes electric vehicles, a café, merchandise and a lifestyle environment in a country where about three-quarters of new car sales are electric.
It bears repeating. Three-quarters of Norway’s new car sales are electric vehicles.
But while Nio’s first foreign market is Norway, it won’t be the last. This year, his stated plan is to open ‘Nio Houses’ in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the UK, joining nearly 60 in China. By 2025, Nio aims to have a presence in 25 markets, including the US among them.
Nio has pitched to compete with Lexus and major German luxury brands and the first statement of intent was to build a $3 million supercar, the Nio ES9, for a bunch of flashy world records.
There is one on display as a scene stealer in the Nio House showroom in Oslo.
Next came the development of the Nio ES8 SUV, and so in Oslo buyers can look to a supercar, two SUVs, and a concept car with a single side door and facing rear seats in a nod to a future of autonomous driving.
In addition, at the beginning of July Nio announced the delivery of 12,961 vehicles in June 2022, 60.3% more year-on-year, while a month earlier the ES7 five-seater SUV was also launched.
Nio battery as a service
The notable difference between Nio and its competitors is what it calls “battery as a service.” Nio offers not only a chain of fast charging stations, like Tesla, plus a fleet of mobile charging units and roadside assistance, but also a battery change service that is completed in less than five minutes, including entry and station exit.
By the end of this year, the Chinese automaker aims to have installed 20 energy exchange stations in Norway’s five largest cities and along the country’s main highways. 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 up a conventional car with gasoline.
And Nio House Oslo is clearly not a dealership, but rather, the company says, a community center. Browsers and shoppers will find a library, a barista-served cafe, a children’s play corner, meeting rooms, workplaces, and even a ping-pong table.
Deliberately located along Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s busiest shopping thoroughfare, it is a stone’s throw from the city’s premium shopping district, with a thriving neighborhood of international fashion brands and a revitalized Steen & Strom department store.
Nio app and retail store
Nio has also launched an app that offers very generous loyalty points in addition to partnerships with a number of other brands. Users do not need to have a Nio and simply downloading the app and setting up a profile provides enough points to get a free coffee at the Nio coffee shop.
Users can also spend points on merchandise, in addition to items such as 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 logging in regularly earns more free coffee.
However, Nio has not been without problems. The stock peaked in early 2021 at around $61, but is currently languishing near $21, unhelped by a recent accident at a Chinese facility involving one of its cars that killed two people, or the Audi’s legal action against Nio for the similarity of two of its vehicle names to its own electric vehicles.
Nio is questioning that move, but bad news has had a persistent way of sticking to the Chinese automaker and analysts are ambivalent about the prospects for a share price recovery in the near term.
For now, that doesn’t seem to turn off the Norwegian locals and international tourists who flock to Oslo’s retail quarter.
Nio House was opened to make a brand statement, and before long a host of new countries will be getting their introduction to the Tesla of the East.