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Nio Is Working on One, Possibly Two Sub-Brands for Cheaper EVs

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While Nio’s North American launch is still taking shape, the Chinese EV maker has built out its plan to expand into Europe, starting with Norway and Germany before rolling out across the continent. But expansion isn’t Nio’s only objective; the startup will diversify its offerings as well, with the foundation of another, lower-end brand that has not yet been named.

A report that broke over the weekend via Automotive News Europe has shed light on the young company’s intentions. Nio’s hope is to create a more affordable marque — supposedly codenamed “Alps” — to be like what Volkswagen is to Audi, or Mazda to Amati. While premium brands and products rule in Germany, for example, the automaker’s top brass believes Alps will find more success in other European markets, like France, Italy and Spain.

The strategy makes sense when you consider where European buyers tend to spend the most on cars. Nio’s footprint in Europe starts with Norway, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Scanning the list of average prices of new cars in Europe in 2020 by country, per Statista, four of those five countries are in the top seven out of a list of 19. The only real outlier is the Netherlands, but even then you don’t have to scroll too far down the order to find it, situated at No. 9.

In 2020, the average cost of a new car across those five countries was 39,828 euros. Meanwhile, the average price of a new car in Spain, France and Italy — which ranked No. 16, 17 and 18 on the list, respectively — was 28,788 euros. In the latter group, Nio would be wise to lead with Alps rather than, well, Nio.

Nio may even stretch itself lower in some markets, where Alps might still be too rich. That brings us to a third rumored sub-brand — potentially named “Firefly” or “Himalaya,” per CnEV Post — supposedly aiming for the 100,000 yuan range. That works out to about $14,000.

All this while Nio has established little more than a 10-year lease for office space in San Jose to speak for its investments on this side of the pond. It’s not terribly surprising that Nio is moving with less urgency in North America. Other regions are more mature, with the shift away from ICE vehicles influenced greatly by more stringent local policy. Established, legacy automakers are taking it slowly in the States as well; when they feel more compelled to act, so too will Nio. By the time that happens, the rest of the world may already be driving Nio vehicles under several different names.

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