26. January 2023

How BYD and NIO are shaking up the German auto industry. An assessment by Tobias Seige, Partner and Mobility sector expert.

With Nio and BYD, two Chinese electric car manufacturers with big plans are entering the market in Germany. A serious threat to Germany’s electric top dogs Volkswagen & Co? An assessment by Tobias Seige, Partner and Mobility sector expert.

The NIO ET7 has been available for a few weeks now, a chicly styled elektro sedan, which also received the top rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP test. In addition, emissions and energy consumption are also rated very well by Green NCAP. Are China’s young electric brands outstripping the established German carmakers in terms of e-mobility technology?

Tobias Seige: We see the market entry of Chinese electric car suppliers such as BYD or NIO as serious competition for the German automotive industry. Unlike in earlier years, Chinese automakers are now thoroughly competitive and, especially in BEVs, sometimes even more innovative than their German competitors. The risk of them taking market share from German manufacturers in the electric car sector is therefore very real.

In which areas do Chinese rivals have an edge over German competitors?

Seige: A very important issue for many e-car buyers is range, and here NIO, for example, with its ET7 business sedan launched in Germany a few weeks ago, is already playing right at the front of the competition. The base model is said to be able to travel between 385 and 445 kilometers (WLTP) on its 75 kWh battery, while the 100 kWh model is said to be capable of up to 580 kilometers. The manufacturer promises up to 1,000 kilometers for the 150 kWh model that will follow later.

In addition, NIO plans to equip the ET7 with solid-state batteries with an energy density of up to 360 WS/kg – which is 40 percent higher than what Tesla models can currently offer.

Also innovative are the so-called swaping stations, where the batteries of NIO models can be replaced within a few minutes. In Germany, there is currently only one such station near Augsburg, but in the future this could be an additional selling point for potential customers.

But can the cars keep up with German engineering in terms of quality?

Seige: The first tests in the car magazines are predominantly promising and the Euro NCAP results also speak for high safety standards and solid quality. Unlike the cars with which Chinese manufacturers tried to conquer the European market some two decades ago, today’s electric models are also absolutely competitive in terms of technology and quality.

In the coming years, the battle for raw materials such as cobalt and lithium will intensify. Do Chinese manufacturers like NIO and BYD have an advantage over Europe’s auto industry in terms of supply chains and depth of value creation?

Seige: BYD, for example, aims to sell 120,000 e-cars in Germany as early as 2026, which would correspond to a market share of ten percent. The depth of value added at BYD is significantly higher than that of German manufacturers, because BYD produces its own battery cells. Supply bottlenecks are therefore not to be expected. And of course it is an advantage to have the extraction of the relevant raw materials for high-performance batteries right on our doorstep, so to speak. As a result, China’s electric car manufacturers can buy more cheaply and also have lower transportation costs and shorter supply chains.

In this context, how do you view the purchase of 100,000 BYD electric cars by Europe’s largest car rental company, Sixt? Is this more than a PR coup?

Seige: The incorporation of 100,000 BYD electric cars into the Sixt fleet over the coming years is particularly noteworthy. So far, the car rental company’s fleet has mainly included premium German brands such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi. From our point of view, this is a remarkable development. Especially because the BYD brand, which is still largely unknown in Germany, thus becomes more present in the streets and in people’s minds. A kind of free advertising, which, of course, will later help sell the cars to private and corporate customers.

Tobias Seige, Partner, Sector Expert Mobility, Industrials & Robotics

Copyright cover image: Michelle Becker, Getty Images