Ep. 22: NIO — The Road Ahead for ‘China’s Tesla’


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In episode 22 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about electric carmaker NIO, which went public on September 12 on the NYSE. This episode covers how NIO got started, its purported business model, and how it differs from its competition. Listeners will also hear from Elliott Zaagman, a writer covering Chinese tech as well as an organizational development consultant for Chinese tech firms.

Rui and Ying-Ying start their story with Li Bin, or William Bin Li, who is NIO’s celebrity Founder, Chairman, and CEO. Li Bin, only 43 years old this year, is known as the “godfather of the transport sector” in China: not only did he have his first IPO in 2010 for a car-related internet company named BitAuto, but he has also invested in at least 32 companies in the transportation sector, including 5 unicorns. Indeed, Li Bin is widely recognized for being a master at both making and raising money.

However, Li Bin and NIO’s path in the electric vehicle (EV) industry has not been without its challenges, particularly because of the domestic sector’s past experience with unreliable players such as Jia Yueting, the founder of LeEco and Faraday Future. In fact, one recent Chinese article cheekily called NIO and its fellow EVs “the cars that came out of PowerPoints” — a partial reference to the fact that NIO raised about $2.5B in four rounds before going public, but is still losing money rapidly, to the tune of half a billion dollars in the first half of this year.

Listen to the newest episode of TechBuzz China and join our co-hosts in an exploration that seeks to answer the key question: is Li Bin going to be able to deliver on the hardware he promises? Just how comparable is NIO to Tesla? What about to Xpeng Motors, founded by celebrity entrepreneur He Xiaopeng, the other high-flying EV unicorn in China with an internet DNA? What is NIO’s actual business model, when it does not actually make its own cars, or even its own batteries (yes, you read that right)? Is it accurate to consider NIO a luxury brand, and if so, is that the right strategy in China?

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. Let us know what you think of the show by leaving us an iTunes review, like our Facebook page, and don’t forget to tweet at us at @techbuzzchina to win some swag!