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Nothing but Blue Skies and Open Roads for NIO

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【Summary】Chinese startup NIO is setting themselves up for a strong entry in the American next-gen vehicle market.

Original Aaron Phillips    Apr 03, 2017 3:45 PM PT
Nothing but Blue Skies and Open Roads for NIO

Chinese auto startup NextEV has announced the creation of a new branding effort, dubbed NIO, that they plan to use to bring electric and autonomous cars to the American marketplace. 

NextEV has been making waves in the electric car world since 2014, when they began sponsoring a successful team in the all-electric FIA Formula E racing league. The company is using what it's learned about high performance cars in order to compete in the increasingly-crowded next-gen auto market. 

Blue Sky Coming

The company, whose Chinese name literally translates to "blue sky coming," seems to be making all of the right moves to position themselves as a serious contender in the American marketplace.

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NIO's striking Shanghai global headquarters

NextEV bills their NIO brand as an "international startup" with 12 offices around the world. They have a major presence in four cities, including their world headquarters in Shanghai, along with locations in London, Munich, and San Jose. NIO also has satellite offices in San Francisco, Beijing, and Hong Kong among other locations.

According to a press release, NIO handles vehicle design in Munich, software development in San Jose, and manufacturing in Shanghai. That strategy lends credence to their claims of being a global startup, and seems to make good use of each region's relative strengths. 

The company has also brought on Microsoft board member and tech entrepreneur Padmasree Warrior in a senior management role, and have built up global operations to manage their brand across Europe and Asia. 

NIO has also partnered with major component manufacturers like Nvidia, in order to help the brand get up to speed in autonomous vehicle engineering and testing. 

All of the moves that the company is making indicates that they plan to be a serious global competitor when it comes to electric and autonomous vehicles. NIO would be the first Chinese brand to enter the global next-gen vehicle marketplace, joining Japanese and Korean manufacturers in a growing Asian presence in the sector.

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NIO's parent company, NextEV, sponsors a successful electric car racing team

NIO showcased three different technologies at a launch event in Austin, Texas earlier this year. The company's new U.S. CEO, Padmasree Warrior, announced plans for an electric car. She also showed off the company's self-driving concept EVE, and the NOMI AI companion which acts as a bridge between the user and in-car intelligent systems.

All of these plans point to a company which will create their own autonomous systems and manufacturing infrastructure.

Entering the US Market by 2020

According to Annie Weckesser, who handles PR for American operations, NIO plans to have a consumer model electric car ready for the United States market by 2020. The company has hinted at their vision for a consumer car over the past few months, teasing Tesla performance at Toyota prices.

Assuming the company can execute on its vision, NIO is positioning itself to compete with big 3 automakers for a share of the consumer electric market. NIO plans to establish itself as an electric car brand before offering up self-driving cars.

Last month, NIO entered into California's autonomous car pilot program, receiving approval to start bringing test cars onto the road. The company will begin reporting to California's DMV later this year.

But even before NIO breaks into the United States consumer market, their brand is achieving some incredible things. Earlier this year, NIO's 1,360 horsepower EP9 supercar set a world record for autonomous racing. The EP9 reached speeds as high as 170mph without a driver on the Austin, TX Cup of the Americas test track.

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The autonomous 1,300 horsepower EP9

William Li, the founder and chairman of NIO's parent company NextEV, believes that cars like the EP9, while not built for the consumer market, have an important role to play in the adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles. 

He said, "The NIO EP9 was born to push limits and is the first stage of automotive production for NIO. It is a statement of our vision and technical and manufacturing capabilities. It is a best-in-class product that showcases what is possible with electric vehicles. We believe that when the car ownership experience exceeds expectations, electric vehicles will become the natural choice for everyone, leading to a more sustainable tomorrow. And with that, our vision of a blue sky will come true."

If NIO is able to extend their performance on the track to the consumer market, it's easy to see why Mr. Li seems so optimistic about the future of his new startup.

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