EIn a few days before Christmas 2021, William Li is sitting on the 31st floor of a skyscraper in Suzhou and has to explain that his company is Chinese. The 47-year-old man in sportswear and with a friendly expression wants to conquer Germany. Seven years earlier, Li founded Nio in Shanghai, a start-up for luxury electric cars. In 2021, Nio will sell 90,000 vehicles, more than double the number of the previous year. Nio has a large and a very large SUV on offer, which are cleanly finished and accelerate like a rocket.
Now the sedan ET7 is to go on sale, whose solid-state battery, which is still under development, should eventually have a range of 1000 kilometers. The ET7 should be available in Germany in 2022. The price has not yet been determined, but for the basic version with a small battery that can cover 500 kilometers, the equivalent of 56,000 euros is called in China. A lot of money for a car from a country that doesn’t have the best reputation in Germany.
The war waged by China’s “best friend” Vladimir Putin against Ukraine has not even started yet, for which Beijing will later express “understanding” and describe the invasion as a “necessary measure”. The month-long lockdown in Shanghai, during which German families are also held captive in their homes and prevented from leaving the country, is still a long way off. The crisis surrounding the island of Taiwan, which threatens to degenerate into a third world war, has not yet begun. And the United Nations human rights report, which says China may have committed crimes against humanity in the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority, will not be released until September 2022.
But in surveys, two out of three Germans are already calling for a “tougher approach” towards China because of the horrific reports from Xinjiang. It is foreseeable that three quarters of all Germans will soon state that they view China negatively – much more than a few years ago. So who should put a Nio from China in front of the door in Hamburg or Munich for the price of a Tesla, only to have to hear from neighbors and friends that they are supporting a dictatorship?
cars, not politics
William Li says it’s about cars, not politics. He praises Germany, expresses his respect for German car manufacturers and calls the country the toughest car market in the world. He’s right about that. From January to July 2022, two thirds of all newly registered cars come from German companies. In the upper class, which Nio is aiming for, German buyers are even more patriotic. Anything that does not come from Audi, BMW, Daimler and Porsche ranks under “also drove”. And yet hardly a week goes by in which a Chinese e-car manufacturer does not announce its intention to go to Germany.
Shortly after China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, the “Spiegel” described the gigantic car production in the Middle Kingdom under the headline “The Leap of the Dragon” and asked whether Germany would soon lose “jobs to the billionaire empire”. The Chinese are finally here. The manufacturers Aiways, MG Roewe and Lynk are already selling in Germany. Xpeng , Great Wall and BYD aim to come by the end of the year. Nio opens showrooms at the best addresses in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. Management consultants have told their customers from the Far East that the German car market is opening up at exactly the right time. Starting next year, the purchase premium for e-cars will be reduced. In the upper class, in which Nio strives, it falls by 2000 euros. Since they can offer cheaper products at home due to the low wages, China’s car manufacturers see themselves at an advantage.