Chinese electric vehicle (EV) automaker Nio Inc is taking on conventional gasoline premium automakers from BMW to Audi further, releasing on Saturday its first sedan model as it eyes a greater share of the world’s largest auto market.
The release of the ET7, at an event in the western city of Chengdu, came as rival Tesla begins selling its China-made Model Y sport-utility vehicle in the Chinese market.
Nio is aiming to broaden its product lineup to attract more consumers. In China’s passenger auto market, sedans and SUVs each comprise around 46% of total sales.
Chief Executive William Li said Nio’s new battery technology will provide the ET7 a driving range of over 1,000 km (621 miles) between charges.
The starting price will be 378,000 yuan ($58,422) for the car without the battery pack, one of the most expensive electric vehicle components, which can then be leased from the company. With the battery pack, the starting price is 448,000 yuan ($69,241).
Li said in an interview ET7’s target competitors were BMW’s 5-series, Audi’s A6, and Mercedes-Benz E-class sedans.
It was “reasonable” that the automaker could sell a similar amount of ET7 as BMW’s 5-series sedans in China in the future, Li said but provided no details of timeframe. The starting price for the BMW 5-series is 426,900 yuan ($65,980) and BMW sells over 10,000 of them each month in China.
Li said the ET7 will be fitted with lidar sensors – which help the vehicle perceive its surroundings, and are often discovered in autonomous cars – to assist drivers, a technology rejected by Tesla Inc’s CEO Elon Musk.
The Californian automaker, which is selling Shanghai-made Model 3 sedans, has just begun to sell its Model Y vehicles at a starting price of 339,900 yuan ($52,533). It uses cameras for driver assistance.
Nio, which made deliveries of 43,728 vehicles last year, has a market capitalization of more than $92 billion, surpassing conventional automakers Daimler AG and General Motors investors who have invested billions of dollars into electric vehicle development.
Li said “it is not a bad thing” when asked about the high market value of the company, but added Nio is still relatively a small company compared to established firms like BMW when it comes to sales volume.
It is presently selling three SUV models built at a car factory in China’s eastern city of Hefei.
Last week, Nio’s rival Xpeng Inc declared plans to roll out a new sedan model. It presently has a sedan and an SUV in its lineup.