Most people all over the world know of the electric car brand Tesla and their enigmatic leader Elon Musk. He is a master of media and publicity, possibly the most amazing recent coverage was when his space exploration firm tested a new rocket by blasting a Tesla car into space.
But NIO from China is quietly becoming a rival to Tesla and they have a very interesting focus on user experience that should resonate with customers, as the brand becomes better known. Tencent, Baidu, IDG, and others have all invested over $2bn into NIO so the firm has serious backing and support in China.
But NIO is truly a global company. It may be headquartered in Shanghai, but the product design is performed in Munich, Germany, and the research and development team focused on autonomous driving are based in San Jose, USA.
Vice President of User Development, Izzy Zhu, recently talked about NIO to TechCrunch: “The automotive industry has entered a key turning point, both in terms of technology and consumer adoption,” he said when asked about why several new electric vehicle companies in China have formed recently, for example, Youxia Motors and Singulato. Zhu has worked for BMW, Lexus, and Amazon so he has an excellent oversight of how large car companies work in addition to experiencing the Amazon philosophy around customer experience.
Zhu believes that the user experience is the main focus for NIO and this means both in big strategic measures, but also in small daily actions. For example, NIO calls their sales team “fellows,” not salespeople. It sounds small, but it implies that everyone on the team is a companion and all working together.
NIO has replaced the conventional dealer network and manages the customer relationship directly. This allows NIO to manage every interaction from sales to servicing and avoids the issue of a dealer who is not from the NIO group being the main point of contact.
NIO is taking greater control of the customer journey, but Zhu acknowledged that the biggest problem today for owners of electric vehicles is charging them. He said: “Currently, it’s very inconvenient to charge, which is determined by the state of national infrastructure. [In the future,] NIO will provide cloud computing and data to connect our charging substations, the nation’s fast charge stations, and a service team that provides a mobile charging vehicle into a complete service system.”
This is an exciting prospect and goes beyond what any other vehicle manufacture has proposed. NIO is not only rejecting the dealership model for sales, they are suggesting that they will directly become involved in making it easier for electric vehicle owners to find charging stations.
NIO is proposing a completely new approach to vehicle manufacturing and sales. They aim to help customers throughout their entire experience, from the initial purchase through to every single time the car needs to be charged. That’s a fresh approach and even goes beyond the way that Tesla has used retail outlets rather than dealers. NIO could redefine the experience of vehicle ownership if their plans work out and with a possible fossil fuel ban rumored in China there is a lot to play for in China alone, let alone the global auto market.
Let me know what you think about the NIO approach to sales, servicing, and the complete vehicle lifecycle by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly using my LinkedIn profile.