NIO launches first electric sedan model as Tesla delivers China-built SUV

CHENGDU (CNA) – Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Nio is taking on conventional gasoline premium automakers from BMW to Audi further, launching on Saturday its first sedan model as it eyes a greater share of the world’s largest car market.

The launch of the ET7, at an event in the western city of Chengdu, came as rival Tesla started selling its China-made Model Y sport-utility vehicle in the Chinese market.

Nio is aiming to expand its product lineup to attract more customers. In China’s passenger car market, sedans and SUVs each make up around 46 per cent of overall sales.

Chief Executive William Li said Nio’s new battery technology will give the ET7 a drive range of more than 1,000km between charges.

The starting price will be CNY378,000 (USD58,378) for the car without the battery pack, one of the most expensive EV components, which can then be leased from the company. With the battery pack, the starting price is CNY448,000.

Li said in an interview ET7’s target rivals were BMW’s 5-series, Audi’s A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-class sedans.

NIO CEO William Li introducing the NIO ET7, the flagship sedan for the Chinese electric car manufacturer, during its launch ceremony in Chengdu. PHOTO: AFP

It was “reasonable” that Nio could sell a similar number of ET7 sedans as BMW’s 5-series sedans in China in the future, Li said, but gave no details of time frame.

The starting price for the BMW 5-series is CNY426,900 and BMW sells more than 10,000 of them each month in China.

Li said the ET7 will be fitted with lidar sensors – which help the car perceive its surroundings, and are often found in autonomous cars – to assist drivers, a technology dismissed by Tesla’s outspoken chief Elon Musk.

The Californian automaker, which is selling Shanghai-made Model 3 sedans, has just started selling its Model Y vehicles at a starting price of 339,900 yuan. It uses cameras for driver assistance.

Nio, which delivered 43,728 vehicles last year, has a market capitalisation of more than USD92 billion, surpassing conventional automakers Daimler AG and General Motors. Investors have poured billions of dollars into electric vehicle development.

Li said “it is not a bad thing” when asked about the high market value of the firm, but added Nio is still relatively a small company compared to established firms like BMW in terms of sales volume.

It is currently selling three SUV models built at a car factory in China’s eastern city of Hefei.

On Thursday, Nio’s rival Xpeng announced plans to roll out a new sedan model. It currently has a sedan and an SUV in its lineup.