Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio has chosen Norway — an EV hotspot — for its first foray into international markets. Nio Norway will offer a European version of ES8, Nio's flagship electric SUV, to Norwegian customers from September this year. The ET7 sedan will follow in 2022.
“The decision to have Norway as our first destination overseas is backed by long-term thinking,” Nio founder William Li explained at an event Thursday. “Norway is the most EV-friendly company.” Among the European countries, Norway is the biggest adopter of battery electric vehicles. The company's relationship with Norway stretches back to 2018 when Norges Bank, the country's sovereign fund, gave the automaker “critical support” during its initial public offering, Li said at the event. Nio signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Norwegian EV Association, also in 2018.
That high EV adoption rate also means Nio will be making its pitch to a growing consumer base of savvy EV owners. In Norway, Nio will face competition from Chinese automakers like XPeng, international rivals Tesla and European automakers such as Volkswagen and Audi.
In addition to vehicle sales, the company also detailed plans to open dedicated service centers, vehicle charging stations and its Nio Power Swap battery swapping stations in Norway. The company aims to build four battery swapping stations around Oslo by the end of 2021, with additional swapping stations coming to the Norwegian cities Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger and Kristiansand in 2022. Nio's Norway team is composed of around 15 people, but that number is expected to grow to around 50 by the end of 2021, according to the company.
The Chinese automaker has had a slow start since its founding in 2014, but started gaining ground in the second half of 2020 through the latest quarter. Nio reported deliveries of 20,060 vehicles in the first quarter, a 422.7% jump from the same period last year when COVID-19 was busy upending the economy on a global scale. Sales in the first quarter of 2021 were also 15.6% higher from the fourth quarter. It has delivered 102,000 vehicles to date. These deliveries helped the company increase its vehicle sales by 489% compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Still, Nio is losing money, albeit the gap between revenues and net loss continues to narrow.
The boost in sales was likely due in part to the January debut of the ET7, its flagship electric sedan and the first vehicle model to be fitted with its so-called "Nio Autonomous Driving" software. The company has been an outlier when it comes to charging, adopting a battery-swap option in addition to traditional plug and charge stations. Nio has already completed more than 2.4 million swaps for Chinese users, Li said -- a number that’s growing by 10,000 every day. Last August, the company also debuted its “battery-as-a-service” purchasing option, which allows drivers to lease the battery from the company and only purchase the vehicle.