While Elon Musk is struggling with his board (and possibly reality) in an attempt at taking electric vehicle maker Tesla private, another EV company, Nio, is looking to go public.

Nio, helmed by former Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, just published its IPO registration documents and is looking to raise $1.8 billion on the public markets by listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company just started making deliveries of its first volume-manufactured vehicle, the ES8 SUV, in June 2018, with a driving range of 220 miles. Nio is now developing a smaller SUV, the ES6, for delivery in 2019. The startup’s first electrified premium SUV has a price of approximately $70,000 prior to incentives. A Tesla Model X will cost you about $135,000 in China.

Nio is building the ES8 in an arrangement with Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC) at its Hefei manufacturing site. JAC is a large state-owned automobile builder in China — so scaling manufacturing volume is less of a challenge than it might be for other startups. The company uses lithium-ion batteries from a number of suppliers and plans to offer battery swapping options, some measure of autonomous driving and advanced connectivity features.

This is an early-stage company that is going to continue to lose enormous sums of money over the coming quarters, as well as require massive investments in manufacturing and R&D. Nio lost $758 million in 2017 and has lost $502.5 million this year so far, while generating just $6.9 million in revenue. All of this business is from China.

The EV builder is based in Shanghai, but employs 520 people at its San Jose, Calif. U.S. headquarters. Nio plans go after the U.S. EV market after it has established itself at home.

While Tesla has struggled to access the Chinese auto market due to tariffs, high prices and various self-inflicted wounds, Nio is setting itself up to ride China’s surging growth in vehicle electrification. China is the world’s largest EV market, with 579,000 electric passenger cars sold last year. Tesla does about 15 percent of its business there.

Nio was founded by Bin Li and a syndicate of internet entrepreneurs. Bin Li controls about 17 percent of the company. CEO Padmasree Warrior owns about 1.4 percent.

The company will emulate Tesla in selling its EVs through its own showroom network. As of a few weeks ago, Nio had delivered 481 SUVs and had deposits for more than 17,000.

In May 2017, Nio’s electric supercar broke the record for fastest lap for a production car around Germany’s Nurburgring.

As the Chinese EV maker looks to rev up its market presence by going public, America’s darling EV company is wrestling with plans to go private.

Following CEO Elon Musk’s surprise announcement on Twitter, there are reports the Saudi Arabian sovereign fund is both investing and not investing in Tesla’s go-private effort. Tesla today announced the formation of a special committee to evaluate the potential of a going private transaction; it does not include board member Ira Ehrenpreis, but does include Brad Buss, Robyn Denholm and Linda Johnson Rice. According to a release, the board’s special committee has retained Latham & Watkins as legal counsel. And in an odd twist, a rapper has alleged Musk was on drugs when he tweeted about the privatization process — which he denies.

This is just the beginning of the EV boom and the start of the EV manufacturing wave. It’s going to come from Chinese companies like Nio and BYD, American companies like Tesla and Proterra, and the European and Japanese automotive incumbents. Watch out for when the Chinese manufacturing machine starts to crank out electric vehicles and do what it does best (and what Tesla is struggling with), which is the ability to scale to massive volumes.


 

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