The company's major selling points are three-minute battery swaps, a fleet of vehicles providing mobile power banks and a network of clubhouses for users, typically set in prime real estate locations in major Chinese cities. The company intends to more than double the number of its "Nio Houses" and pop-up stores to 70 from 26 by the end of 2019.
However, Nio's plans to expand into the U.S. and launch an autonomous vehicle there in 2020 appear to be on the back burner for now. The company announced in late November its U.S. CEO Padmasree Warrior is leaving, effective Dec. 17, for personal reasons.
When asked about the 2020 launch plan, Li declined to confirm a change, but noted that the company has not mentioned U.S. plans since its September IPO.
The opportunity within China remains large. Bain has predicted penetration of battery-powered electric vehicles to reach 18 percent in 2025, and likely top 70 percent by 2040.
Xpeng is trying to differentiate itself with its years-long product development process, lower price tag and integration of autonomous-driving features such as assistance with parking. The company is also rapidly expanding its physical presence from just four locations in southern China to a planned 60 to 70 stores in nearly 30 cities nationwide in the next 12 months.
"A lot of these start-ups will fade away. Most will disappear," Brian Gu, vice chairman of Xpeng, said in a phone interview last week. "I actually believe subsidies may not be good for the market, because it distorts the demand curve. The product itself has to prove itself as a gas engine alternative."