Nio Confirms Second EV Brand Will Launch in 2024

NIO's CEO promises the Chinese automaker will “disrupt the game.”

Greg Kable

December 15, 2023

3 Min Read
Nio ET5 CROPPED screenshot
Chinese automaker claims 620 miles of range for Tesla Model 3-challenging ET5.

NIO CEO William Li outlines the Chinese automaker’s intentions to establish two new electric-vehicle brands – and he says an entry to the U.S. market is in the planning stage as part of its global ambitions.

Speaking to the media ahead of the annual NIO Day presentation set to take place Dec. 24 in Xi’an, Li confirms the automaker has progressed its second “family car” brand to the point where construction of validation prototypes is now taking place.

Known internally under the Alps codename, it is among two additional brands planned by NIO as part of an expansion strategy aimed at taking it deeper into volume markets.

“Starting next year, you will see a different NIO, as it introduces a second brand,” Li says. “The family market is distinct from the high-end market. We are using our latecomer advantage. In the past, once VB (validation build) was completed, it would quickly enter SOP (start of production). But this time, we’ll wait a bit, and in the end, we will come in and disrupt the game.”  

Alps, an official name for which is yet to be revealed, will support three models in its initial phase with retail activities taking place through an internet-based direct sales channel, Li says.  

Asked about the differences between Alps and NIO, he says: “You won’t see a NIO model priced below the ET5.” Prices for the BMW 3-Series-sized sedan start at RMB298,000 ($41,800) in China.

The NIO and Alps brands will be supported by a third brand known under the codename Firefly. As confirmed by Li earlier this year, it will compete at a lower price point than NIO and Alps with a range of affordable electric cars conceived to compete against electric vehicle rivals from the likes of Volkswagen, Renault and Ford.   

On the subject of NIO’s objectives for the U.S., Li says, “We are still in the planning stages, and the colleagues working on this plan are under considerable stress.”

Other markets being targeted by NIO include the United Arab Emirates. “A few months ago, we tested driving the ET7 (pictured, below) back and forth between Abu Dhabi and Dubai without any issues. By setting up battery swap stations, we can easily solve the energy replenishment problem.”

Nio ET7.jpeg

Nio ET7

Nio also plans to enter right-hand-drive markets. “Right-hand-drive prototypes do exist, but we will first focus on understanding and establishing ourselves in European markets,” the CEO says.

As well as outlining its volume market aspirations, Li confirms NIO is working on what he describes as a “high-end model” aimed at further establishing the nine-year-old electric vehicle manufacturer as a reputable competitor to the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

“We must conquer the executive market, otherwise both profits and brand recognition will be limited,” he says. “We understand that this market is not large, with an annual volume of around 100,000 units. However, the profit from selling one Mercedes-Benz S-Class is equivalent to selling several dozen A-Classes.”

Targeting the likes of the upcoming electric-powered Audi A8, BMW i7, Mercedes-Benz EQS and Porsche Taycan, the flagship sedan will serve as a showcase for NIO’s technological capabilities with relatively low volumes and high pricing, he says.

“The mass market will be handled by our second brand,” Li says. “The NIO brand will pursue breakthroughs and innovations in technology. Being technologically advanced is essential to create a high-end brand. The volume of this model won’t be as high as everyone expects.

“The definition of an executive flagship varies, but fundamentally, it is about being a technological flagship.”

NIO has trademarked four possible model designations for its new range-topping model: ET9, ES9, EE9 and EF9.

NIO confirms it has developed different batteries for each of its planned brands – all of which support battery swap capability. It also says it has licensed its battery swap technology to an unnamed partner.

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