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Nio and Tesla vie for dominance in China’s electric vehicles market

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SINGAPORE — As domestic carmakers in China try to position themselves against Tesla in the growing Chinese electric vehicle space, Nio is well-placed to capture a sizeable chunk of the market, an analyst told CNBC.

The Chinese electric car start-up released its first sedan, the et7, on Saturday with self-driving technology features that it claims surpass that of Tesla. An et7 with a 70 kilowatt-per-hour battery pack starts at 448,000 yuan ($69,000) before subsidy.                                         

“This is the icon vehicle for Nio in the sedan category,” Bill Russo, founder and CEO at Automobility Limited, said Monday on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.” He explained that the company has already established itself as a premium brand in the SUV category where it is selling at a higher rate than their peer group in China.

“Now they’re moving to the sedan segment, or the premium car segment,” Russo said, adding that the et7 will compete with Tesla’s imported Model S.

“Obviously, the pricing that was announced on Nio Day is actually quite competitive with the Model S,” he said, adding, “It’s a statement of aspiration, it’s a statement of where they hope to position their brand and among the Chinese companies, they are establishing that they are the premium (electric vehicle) company.”

Last year, Reuters reported that Tesla cut its Model S price in China by 3%.

Catching up with Tesla

China is already the world’s largest auto market. In its bid to become a leader in electric vehicle technology, Beijing has supported the industry with subsidies, looser restrictions and the building out of charging infrastructure.

Homegrown electric vehicle makers including Nio, Li Auto and Xpeng said deliveries surged last year — government data showed sale of pure electric vehicles from January through November jumped 4.4% on-year versus a 7.6% drop in overall passenger car sales in the same period. Still, their delivery numbers came short of Tesla’s.

“Clearly everybody’s trying to position against Tesla. Tesla is certainly the market leader. It has the market capitalization that’s so far ahead of everyone else,” Russo said. For its part, Tesla’s market value is around $768.93 billion as of Monday whereas Nio has a market capitalization of about $98.63 billion.

Employees make checks at an inspection line during a media tour of the Nio Inc. production facility in Hefei, Anhui province, China, on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nio is “trying to establish themselves as the Chinese Tesla, which means you have to compare yourself as a premium EV brand in China with access to the China market, which stands to grow significantly over the next five years,” Russo said.

“These companies are going to grow with the market and I think Nio’s positioned well to capture a lot of that,” he said, adding that, still, the company does not control all of its supply chain and relies on third parties for components like autonomous driving chipsets.

For its part, Tesla has ramped up its efforts in China, including more promotions on New Year’s Day. The company has a factory in the country that is capable of producing 250,000 vehicles and has announced a new China-made vehicle, Model Y, with a price tag of 339,900 yuan.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.


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Tesla (TSLA) earnings Q4 2020

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Employees work at the Tesla Gigafactory in Shanghai, east China, Nov. 20, 2020. U.S. electric car company Tesla in 2019 built its first Gigafactory outside the United States in the new Lingang area, with a designed annual production capacity of 500,000 units.

Ding Ting | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Tesla is expected to report 2020 fourth quarter results on Wednesday after the bell, and to offer guidance for the first quarter and full year ahead.

Here’s what analysts are expecting, according to an average of estimates compiled by Refinitiv as of Wednesday:

  • Earnings: $1.03 per share expected
  • Revenue: $10.4 billion expected

And here’s what guidance Wall Street expects from Tesla for the full year ahead:

  • 2021 earnings guidance: $4.15 per share expected
  • 2021 revenue guidance: $46.09 billion expected

Tesla previously said it had delivered 499,550 vehicles in 2020, falling barely shy of its guidance for half a million vehicle deliveries in 2020. (Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales numbers disclosed by Tesla.) It produced 509,737 vehicles during the year.

Both deliveries and production numbers set a new record for Elon Musk’s maturing electric car company, seen as a triumph in a year when auto sales and factory operations were dampened by a global pandemic.

Starting around the end of 2019, Tesla has said that it expects to report positive cash flow and net income moving forward, with possible exceptions around the launch and ramp in production of new products or facilities. Last quarter was its fifth consecutive quarter of profitability — which led to the addition of the company to the S&P 500.

Tesla is currently building new factories in Austin, Texas, and Brandenburg, Germany, after quickly constructing and reaching a high volume of production at its last new plant in Shanghai.

Vehicle sales in China largely enabled Tesla to hit record deliveries in 2020. So did the introduction of a new crossover SUV, the Model Y, which Tesla began to produce in serious volumes in the first quarter last year out of its Fremont, California car plant.

By the period ending in September 2020, Tesla was making more Model Ys than Model 3s for US drivers, according to NHTSA records on light vehicle production. The company has not historically broken out sales numbers by region, or precise model. Instead it combines sales of Model Y and 3, and Model S and X.

Since Tesla’s third quarter earnings call in October 2020, the price of the company’s stock has more than doubled, giving it a market capitalization of more than $835 billion and making it the fifth-most valuable company in the U.S.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.


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GM returning with two ads focused on electric vehicles

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One of General Motors’ two Super Bowl ads this year will feature the Cadillac Lyriq. In this provided screenshot of the Cadillac ad, the Lyriq appears to be in the fictional neighborhood of 1990’s “Edward Scissorhands” movie.

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DETROIT – General Motors will air two commercials during this year’s Super Bowl advertising its all-electric vehicles, the company confirmed Wednesday to CNBC.

One of the 60-second ads will feature the company’s new focus on electric vehicles — GM’s first corporate spot in more than a decade — while the other will feature the automaker’s luxury Cadillac brand and its upcoming Lyriq crossover EV.

GM is launching the new ad campaign after recently redesigning its corporate logo to better represent the its pivot to EVs, including 30 new models globally under a $27 billion investment in electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025. The redesigned logo accompanies a new “everyone in” tagline.

“General Motors is creating a movement by making EVs fun, desirable and accessible for people from every walk of life,” GM Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl said in a statement. “We’re excited to demonstrate the tremendous energy and enthusiasm behind our EV commitment by showing up big at this year’s Super Bowl with both GM and Cadillac.”

A GM spokesman declined to discuss further details of the ads, which will likely to be released prior to their national broadcasts during next Sunday’s Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Cadillac Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Grady separately said the brand’s Super Bowl ad “will surprise and delight audiences by transporting an iconic piece of pop-culture history into the future.” She said it will feature the Lyriq as well as the company’s Super Cruise hands-free driver assist system. It will be Cadillac’s first time advertising during the Super Bowl since 2012.

This will be GM’s second-consecutive year of advertising during the Super Bowl. A year ago, the company previewed its all-electric GMC Hummer EV pickup. The 30-second ad featured NBA star LeBron James and teased the new vehicle, which is expected to go on sale this fall.


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Fiat Chrysler to pay $30 million to settle federal corruption probe

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UAW President Rory Gamble (left) and U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announce a settlement agreement to end a years-long corruption investigation into the union on Dec. 14, 2020 in Detroit.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, has agreed to pay $30 million as part of a plea deal to settle a criminal investigation into collusion and bribery of union officials by former executives of the company’s North American operations.

The deal, which was announced Wednesday by federal prosecutors in Detroit, ends a multiyear federal probe into Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union. Prosecutors announced a separate plea deal last month with the UAW.

It’s unclear at this time when Stellantis will pay the fine as the agreement remains subject to U.S. federal court approval.

Under terms of the deal, the company agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act.

The agreement also requires the company to hire an independent compliance monitor for three years. That person will oversee the dissolution of a training facility at the center of the probe, among other things, according to the company

The investigation has led to convictions of 15 people, including two past UAW presidents, three Fiat Chrysler executives and a former General Motors board member who was a union leader. Prison sentences for those involved have ranged from 60 days to 6½ years. A handful of people are still awaiting sentencing.


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