Nio revealed that it wanted to sell the ET7 in Germany a few days ago. It could have seized William Li’s interview to the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) to do so. However, the NIO CEO preferred to tell the German newspaper that his company wants to produce cars in Europe with a similar strategy to the one it adopted in China: partnerships. With European carmakers presenting high idle production capacity, NIO could help them improve that with its EVs.
The interview was published on August 28, but Autocar only brought it up on September 17. Thanks to the British magazine, we also had the chance to check what Li told our German colleagues. However, we understood it differently.
For Autocar, the fact that Li mentioned the European manufacturing capacity could imply he is willing to use Lotus as a manufacturing partner. What the British magazine missed is that Lotus does not have that much production capacity; on the contrary. The British brand will make its future cars in Wuhan, in a plant Geely is building specifically for that.
What the NIO CEO really seems to be eyeing is idle production capacity from major European car companies. Volkswagen, Renault, and some Stellantis brands are among those who could improve production in its factories. For them, it may be attractive to partner with NIO to keep jobs in local factories and even raise the number of employees, depending on the demand NIO vehicles have.
In China, NIO did not make its own factory right off the bat. It joined forces with JAC Motors, which allowed it to lower initial investments. If the company can establish a manufacturing partnership with a relevant European carmaker, that can be a win-win deal. NIO only needs to have a high demand in Europe that justifies having a factory there, according to Li.
If that happens, NIO could seize a partnership to allow other car companies to use its battery swapping system. The Chinese company already told me that it is open to doing that and that there’s a “need for large scale synergies among different manufacturers” to make it happen. Producing its cars in Europe may be the first step for these synergies, as Li implied in his interview with FAZ.