Nio's Fanbase Rivals Those of Tesla and Apple
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Elon Musk and William Li have a lot in common. Both are entrepreneur billionaires making their mark as pioneers in the ever-growing EV realm.
William Li is CEO and founder of the Chinese luxury electric car manufacturer, Nio, which is based in Shanghai. While Tesla's Musk and Nio's Li share an unending appetite for innovation, they differ significantly in their approach to business.
Tesla revs up the electric vehicle crowd daily. But for Li, his global growth ambitions amid stiff competition at home and abroad will likely be a long game. It might be worth the wait.
Who is William Li?
When William Li enters a room, people notice. The Chinese entrepreneur is known for his unprecedented open and friendly relationship with his fans and customers. It is an intentional habit.
Li built his brand into a way of life for his customers, embracing their enthusiasm with clubhouses, reliable charging services, and logo-branded clothing. The amicable chatting and handshakes from Li are part of the automaker's business buzz. It is as culturally important to Nio's success as the car itself.
William Li started his first internet-based company at the age of 21 and never looked back. His personable marketing style came naturally to him and, like Apple, he soon created the obsessive brand loyalty he was striving for.
Setbacks and recalls
William Li's EV startup was not without its share of setbacks and learning curves. The whole of 2019 turned out to be trouble for Nio. The company's chances of survival in the industry seemed bleak at best.
Lower than expected sales in the first quarter were followed by a huge recall of Nio's ES8 electric SUV. Reports of spontaneous fires coming from the battery packs led to the recall of almost 5000 vehicles. The second quarter of 2019 saw Li's company losing an average of $5 million a day.
Tesla, of course, was not without its own problems in China. Complaints about Tesla's customer service and failure to address customer issues caused a backlash. But Nio's dilemma was far more serious.
Public charging stations were overwhelmed, bills were piling up, and there seemed no relief in sight. An infusion of government money provided a needed lifeline and eventually saved the company from collapse.
How Nio's loyal customer base saved the day
William Li still credits his customers for getting his company through the darkest times. His community-focused business strategy has successfully formed an army of devoted Nio fans. They are not only dedicated EV enthusiasts—they often serve as unofficial part-time salespeople.
From the beginning, Li heavily invested in developing a social network for his customers. The company has built several family clubhouses for Nio owners throughout China to hang out with other fans, grab a coffee, and read books. Nio's popular app allows users to organize activities and connect with other happy electric car owners.
Is Nio Tesla's greatest threat?
China is striving to become a global leader and powerhouse in the production and consumption of electric vehicles. They are not far from it. The ever-evolving, capital-intensive automobile industry faces fluctuating market influences, supply shortages, and growing competition.
Companies like William Li's Nio are stepping up, despite setbacks, to give Elon Musk a run for his money. The recent delivery of Tesla's Model Y into the Chinese market has raised the stakes, but Nio claims it is up to the challenge.
It seems investors agree that Nio is a startup worth watching. With production at less than 100,000 units a year, the company will have to ramp up its production volume to compete.
While William Li is optimistic, he sees the greatest threat coming from other rivals besides Tesla. Technology innovators like Apple might soon have the edge in EV manufacturing keeping both companies racing to keep up.