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NIO, XPT, Jack Cheng and a Joyful Life

December 22, 2017

The Chinese EV start up NIO is all over the news as I write this. It had a huge event in Beijing on December 16 where it revealed not just its ES8 electric car but also its plan to offer battery swapping, build a network of fast charging stations, include aspects of autonomous driving in the first model, and even include an Artificial Intelligence-driven personal assistant that learns your preferences.

Jack and Imagine Dragons

Jack Cheng hanging out with band Imagine Dragons after their performance at NIO event in Beijing.

Good stuff, and hopefully NIO will pull it all off. I just read a Bloomberg comparison of the ES8 and a Tesla Model X. The ES8 comes out on top, at a significantly cheaper price.  I admit to being a bit biased. Jack Cheng, one of the founders of NIO and now the CEO of XPT, NIO’s powertrain division, is a good friend.

But I am still a skeptic.  There are so many EV companies out there, with new ones popping up every day. I talked with Jack a week or so before the Beijing event and asked him, what makes NIO stand out from the crowd?

“Out total concept is that nothing is more important then the user,” he told me.

That was the mindset when NIO was founded three years ago, says Jack. The other EV startups might be successful too, he says. “But they are too focused on the technology. They aren’t focused on how to make the user happy and make a joyful life. It is easy to say but it is very hard to do.”

Hard to define as well, I suggested. What is a joyful life? Turns out technology is at the root of creating a joyful life. “The first step is to extend your living room into your car,” says Jack.

Especially in China, where people often have little personal space, and they spend a lot of time in their car, “you can move everything into the car.” Then make the car a pleasant space to inhabit, with a “brain” that knows what music you like, the temperature you prefer, where you like to shop, the list goes on.  The car is tailored to your personal tastes.

The ES8 vehicle NIO showed in Beijing offered features to realize that vision of a car as a personal living space. I won’t go into detail – you can read about it here. It is aimed directly at creating a personal user experience, it seems, right down to NOMI, billed as the world’s first in-car Artificial Intelligence system. Here is a handy YouTube video demonstrating some NOMI features.

Fingers crossed NIO – and XPT – will succeed.  The two are two parts of the same whole, of course. As Jack told me, “The most important thing for me is to get the car right.” But he has big ideas for XPT after that.  Indeed, Jack suggested to BMW chairman and CEO Harald Krueger that the XPT and the German automaker could work together in the future. 

XPT Global isn’t very well known, but it likely will be in the future. Although it is registered as a separate company in Hong Kong, XPT is part of the NIO global umbrella, which is a company registered in the Cayman Islands.

For now, XPT is focused on NIO and its vehicles. But, “eventually, XPT could be like Delphi,” says Jack, referencing how Delphi was part of GM but then separated to become an independent firm (which has now spun off its electronics division as an independent firm called Aptiv.)

Not a traditional guy

Jack got involved with NextEV, as NIO was originally known, after he and William Li,  the founder of Bitauto and a founder of NextEV, were on a panel together at a digital forum in China in 2014. Jack was, somewhat ironically, on the panel as the representative of the traditional auto industry. Li was the representative of the new age of digital human and machine interface.

After the panel, Li introduced himself. Li didn’t have a name card, says Jack, only WeChat. Fortunately,  “I had installed WeChat a short time before,” says Jack.  The two exchanged WeChat info. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jack brought more than just his long experience with supply chain and traditional manufacturing to the venture. I asked him, “What makes you uniquely qualified to be the CEO of XPT?”  “I have friends all over the world,” says Jack, “connections to all kinds of supplier partners, manufacturing partners, government partners, investor partners.”

Seems he is putting that network to use in the construction of NIO’s greenfield plant in Anhui province with partner Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. aka JAC Motors. “We put 100 manufacturing experts into it,” he said. “Japanese Lean Manufacturing guys plus German manufacturing.”  You get the picture. What did JAC bring to the equation besides land? Government money. “We pay by building cars,” says Jack.

His outlook is also a strength, says Jack.  “I never say myself as a traditional guy,” he says.  I think Jack sees himself as the personification of NIO’s “Joyful Life” slogan. “Still crazy after all these years,” he says.




8 Comments leave one →
  1. Fritz Maffry permalink
    December 25, 2017 10:40 pm

    Hello, Might it be possible to try and position collaboratively to get distribution rights for US market with Nio. They impress me.

    Thank you, Fritz Maffry

    With an option I could raise funding

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. December 27, 2017 1:30 am

    I can’t speak for NIO. Give it a try! NIO has a U.S. office in Silicon Valley, btw.

  3. Nicolas Zart permalink
    December 29, 2017 4:54 pm

    Hi Alysha,

    Great story on something we’re all very excited about, NIO. I wrote the following story quoting you on CleanTechnica:

    Take care,

    [image: Picture] Nicolas Zart Communication & e-Mobility SME Co-Founder, Google Voice Mail (757) 346-9278

    “As Above, So Below. As Below, So Above”

    Disclaimer: This email communication may contain CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION WHICH ALSO MAY BE LEGALLY PRIVILEGED and is intended only for the use of the intended recipients identified above. If you are not the intended recipient of this communication, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized review, use, dissemination, distribution, downloading, or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient and have received this communication in error, please immediately notify us by reply email, delete the communication and destroy all copies.

    On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 5:56 PM, Alysha Webb’s ChinaEV Blog wrote:

    > Alysha Webb posted: “The Chinese EV start up NIO is all over the news as I > write this. It had a huge event in Beijing on December 16 where it revealed > not just its ES8 electric car but also its plan to offer battery swapping, > build a network of fast charging stations, include” >

    • December 29, 2017 5:30 pm

      Thanks Nick. One request. Can you change it to long-time China EV writer rather than Chinese? Although I lived in China a long time, I’m still Caucasian! Happy New Year!

  4. January 2, 2018 4:13 am

    Hi Alysha, I have visited the dealership in Beijing and looked through the car. I have also written a few industry reports on them if you want a copy let me know. Looks impressive. We were told the car was going to be available in December 2017 but when I asked if I could order one they said maybe next June 2018. They have a great headstart on most of the competition and it seems it will take time for the Tesla production to get up and running. Their partnership with JAC might also help as they will not likely have as many scaling up production issues.

    • January 2, 2018 4:43 pm

      Hi Scott! What are you doing these days? Clearly still analyzing, but for whom? I would love to read your NIO reports. What do you think of the GAC partnership? Can NIO manage JAC and GAC partnerships? When you say NIO has a “headstart,” what are you basing that on?

  5. ZenBit888 permalink
    January 19, 2018 7:04 pm

    Interesting article and completely understand the skepticism with so much happening and changing in this space. Wondering what your thoughts might be on Jin Bo – Zhong Ji Ming Yang New Energy Co., Ltd? Seems that they have new battery technology and may be making deals with major EV car manufacturers? I think their website is at zjmyqc dot com.

    Either way, thanks for this great blog to help learn more about this space.


  1. NIO ES8 — Could This Be A Serious Competitor To The Tesla Model X | CleanTechnica

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