Chinese premium carmaker Nio wants to move down the ladder. Under the codename Firefly, its CEO confirmed that a new subbrand is in the making, which will focus on Europe and aims at launching a small EV below the €25 000 mark to rival the forthcoming Volkswagen ID.2.
Nio CEO Lihong Qin unveiled the plans in an interview with the British car magazine Autocar. He said that he was working on not one but two standalone brands under the names Alps and Firefly. These are working titles, as the definite branding needs to be confirmed, but both aim at marketing affordable BEVs.
‘Higher demand for smaller vehicles’
Firefly is the project poised for Europe. Qin detailed that the brand would be launched in Europe first, from where it would expand into other foreign markets, next to the domestic market in China. “In Europe, there’s definitely a higher demand for smaller vehicles (than in China),” he told Autocar.
Qin acknowledged that the race toward an affordable and compact BEV is on for all car brands. “For compact cars, the proportion of the battery cost will be bigger than a battery pace in another car. But this challenge is universal. (…) This is all about competition. (…) If the overall experience we can provide for future European users is better in some areas, then we can establish our competitiveness, then we can get our fair share.”
With separate battery swapping
Hinting at that overall experience, Qin added that the models from Firefly would also benefit from the swapping technology the company is currently rolling out in Europe. This will prove a hurdle. With their smaller footprint, these vehicles can’t use the existing infrastructure from Nio. However, according to Nio, battery swapping is one of the tricks to bring battery prices down.
Though the Firefly models are built for European customers, they will be made in China. As for the Alps, this brand will slot in between Firefly and the higher-positioned Nio with assembly in the same factory to drive costs down. The introduction of Firefly is planned for Q3 in 2024.
Slow sales are building up
There’s still some work on the shelf for Nio’s European expansion. Currently, the models are only for sale in Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. Sales remain extremely modest.
In March, the brand sold 15 cars in the Netherlands. In the same month, 95 units found a customer in Norway, where the ET5 model is gaining traction. In Germany, sales soared from 24 in February to 93 in March (+285%).
Since February, the brand has offered the EL7 SUV in Europe, and in June 2023, it will bring a typical European bodywork to the market in the form of a station wagon version of the ET5.
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