Chinese electric-car maker NIO has launched sales of its first vehicle three years after the company was founded, undercutting the price of a rival model from Tesla Inc.
Starting at 448,000 yuan (about $68,000), the NIO ES8 is nearly 50 percent cheaper than Tesla’s Model X, which sells for 836,000 yuan (about $127,000) in China.
NIO is also offering some Tesla-esque features and perks, including an in-car artificial intelligence system and a charging portal that it says will let drivers change their car batteries in just three minutes.
NIO President Lihong Qin told CNN his company plans to “target the middle class in the big cities in China,” predicting that market will double in size in the next four to six years.
The company is proposing ways to try to make it easier for its customers keep their cars charged, including a monthly subscription plan to rent batteries and vans that function as mobile charging stations.
These so-called ‘Power Mobile’ vehicles will give NIO cars enough electricity to drive 100 kilometers from just a 10-minute charge. It wants to have 1,200 of the vans on the roads by 2020.
After raising more than $1 billion from investors led by Tencent Holdings Ltd., NIO is preparing for its next phase of growth in the world’s biggest electric-car market. In addition to Tesla, the company will be competing against home-grown rivals such as BYD Co., as well as industry giants Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co.
NIO also wants to eventually expand sales beyond China, including to the U.S. It already has offices around the globe, including in California, London, and Munich.
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