Earlier in December, Nio signed a deal for a $2.2 billion cash injection from Abu Dhabi-backed fund CYVN Holdings LLC. Image Credit: Reuters

Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc. unveiled a flagship sedan at its annual customer event Saturday, with the vehicle set to take on Porsche AG’s Panamera series and Mercedes-Benz Group AG’s luxury S range.

The four-seater executive sedan dubbed ET9 is expected to start delivery in the first quarter of 2025, with an estimated starting price at around 800,000 yuan ($112,000). It is more expensive than Tesla Inc.’s Model S, which starts at 698,900 yuan in China.

The model will be equipped with Nio’s self-developed five-nanometer automotive-grade chip and large cylindrical battery cells, founder and Chief Executive Officer William Li said at the Nio Day event. It will also be compatible for a 900 Voltage ultra-fast charging platform that could extend its range by 255 kilometers (158 miles) in five minutes.

“Integrated with over 100 NIO full-stack technologies, NIO ET9 reaches a new height of innovation and technological development,” Li said at the event, held this year in Xi’an, the northern Chinese city famous for its Terracotta Warriors.

As part of a company strategy to build brand loyalty, Nio launches its major products and outlines strategy at “Nio Day” “- a year-end gathering for corporate partners, customers and media. For the first event in 2017, the company paid for flights and luxury hotels for everyone who had ordered a vehicle in the year before production started. R&B star Bruno Mars headlined the 2018 event.

Nio also presented its latest generation of Nio Power Swap stations, a platform that can quickly replace a depleted battery with a re-charged one in as fast as three minutes. The newest generation will be compatible with multiple brands and can reduce the overall swapping time by 22 per cent, the company said.

It has reached a target of building 1,000 power swap stations in 2023, and pledged to establish another 1,000 stations in the next year, as well as 20,000 chargers, as the company keeps investing in infrastructure to help lessen customers’ range anxiety.

Once considered one of the brightest rising stars in China’s electric vehicle market, Nio has fallen short of its sales targets and continues to post losses “- forcing it to consider further job cuts after eliminating at least 10 per cent of its workforce last month.

Earlier in December, it signed a deal for a $2.2 billion cash injection from Abu Dhabi-backed fund CYVN Holdings LLC. Upon completion, CYVN will own a 20.1 per cent stake in Nio and can nominate two board directors.

The investment will not change the company’s current strategies as Nio will continue to promote efficiency, prioritize key projects and markets in a dynamic situation, Li said at a media briefing on Sunday, He said earlier this month that the carmaker would enter the United Arab Emirates market next year.

Nio is planning to enter more lower-tier cities in China to head off competition, company President Qin Lihong said on Sunday. Such areas “- while not provincial capitals or the most economically developed cities - contributed over half of the sales of BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz Group AG, and Audi AG, Qin said, adding Nio aims to have a presence in every city where the trio have dealers in.

Nio’s revenue will mainly be generated by the current eight models for sale in the next one to two years, Qin said. He didn’t announce any plan for deliveries of new models in 2024.

The company’s gross margin dropped to as low as 1 per cent in the second quarter before recovering to 8 per cent in the three months through Sept. 30. It’s on track to deliver around 159,000 cars this year “- less than two-thirds its original 250,000 goal. Its market value has slumped almost 40 per cent from a recent peak of $27.5 billion in August.

The firm is looking to slash expenses by around 2 billion yuan in 2024. It has also signed deals to partner with local automakers including Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. on its capital intensive battery-swapping business, and will move manufacturing fully in-house, which could help shave 10 per cent off production costs.