NIO to take on Honda with a cheap electric car brand whose first EV will be priced under US$15,000
NIO, the maker of performance electric sedans and SUVs that rival Tesla's expensive Model S and Model X, is planning to expand downmarket with a new affordable electric car brand whose first vehicle will be priced at less than US$15,000. The cheapest electric car from NIO will reportedly again be a sedan, and, together with another midrange brand in advanced stages of preparation - ALPS - NIO aims to corner all tiers of the EV market, from the budget to the luxury and performance cars.
The brand of affordable electric vehicles is codenamed Firefly, and NIO plans to make it a direct competitor to Wuling, the maker of one of the world's most popular EVs. Wuling's Mini EV occupied the third place in Q1, after Tesla's Model 3, but it is a cheap small car for the masses that NIO doesn't want to follow. In order to study Wuling's mass market appeal, however, NIO's CEO visited one of its factories last year and test drove another bestselling model of the SAIC-GM-Wuling conglomerate, the KiWi EV. "For NIO owners, the second car in the family should be something like the KiWi EV, stylish, young and fun," said NIO's founder and CEO at the time. Later, however, he clarified that NIO won't be entering the Mini EV market niche.
Thus, the first budget electric car from NIO is expected to be a sedan in the sub-US$30,000 Firefly brand that will cost the equivalent of US$14,820, while the ALPS brand is meant for the sub-US$45,000 market. NIO's flagship electric vehicles like the ET7 performance sedan cost north of US$60,000, so the company would've covered all corners of the market with the three brands that analysts say will be the equivalent of the Lexus-Toyota-Suzuki price ladder.
A latecomer to the electric car game, Honda intends to position itself as a big player in the sub-$30,000 electric car price category as well, and now it may find NIO there as a direct competitor in this budding market niche. Honda has a head start, though, as it recently unveiled its second electric SUV in partnership with GAC, the Honda e:NP1 that costs just US$26,000, placing it directly in the sub-US30,000 range that NIO will aim to conquer with the Firefly project.