NIO: Don’t Buy Into The Fear, NIO Is An EV Pioneer – Seeking Alpha

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Thesis Summary

NIO Inc (NYSE:NIO) has seen its share price drop by near 15% in the last five days. While general market weakness has certainly played a part in this, NIO has been facing challenges at home. Most notably, NIO has had to suspend production due to COVID induced lockdowns around China. This is cause for concern, but the current sell-off is overblown.

A lot has happened with NIO in the last couple of weeks, and if we look at these developments closely, we can see that the good outweighs the bad. NIO is transforming itself into much more than an EV maker.

Supply Issues Are Overblown

First off, let’s address the issue of supply. NIO has been forced to suspend production because many of its supply partners are in cities facing harsh lockdowns. These include Jilin, Shanghai and Jiangsu. Shanghai, where NIO is headquartered, has been in a phased lockdown since the end of March.

NIO is no stranger to production halts, as it also faced issues in October 2021, when production was stopped due to upgrades being carried out. These were necessary to begin production of the ET7.

Having to stop production is a problem for a car company, but investors should not be overly concerned.

For starters, NIO is not the only one facing this problem. Other EV makers such as Tesla Inc (TSLA) and XPeng (XPEV) have also halted production. This is a sector-wide problem that doesn’t only affect NIO.

Secondly, investors should understand that, where possible, work is being carried out. Halting production doesn’t mean that the factory is closed down. In fact, NIO could use this as a chance to carry out further upgrades to its supply lines, since I believe there is still work to be done in that area.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that NIO, which has often been criticized for not having its production facilities, is addressing this issue head-on. In my last article, I mentioned that NIO has almost completed the building of its F2 manufacturing facility in the NeoPark. With both factories fully operational, NIO will be able to produce close to 240,000 units per year

More importantly though, last week NIO increased its stake in its joint venture with JAC Motors to 50%. JAC is NIO’s main production partner, and the two established a JV on March 31st of 2021 called Jianglai. Rumor is that Jianglai will be responsible for producing NIO’s sub-brand, which targets the mass market.

NIO: More than a car company

While investors are panicking over the supply issues, NIO is delivering encouraging news and catalysts for future growth.

First off, NIO reported very strong monthly deliveries, with a 37.6% YoY increase. NIO deployed 884 Power Swap stations and 727 Power Charger stations, as well as 3,832 destination chargers in China. And this is where it gets interesting.

NIO has recently begun building out its power stations in Europe, and the company is in talks with other car companies to begin leasing out its infrastructure. This would be a huge move for NIO and could change the way the company is perceived by the market.

What separates NIO from other EV companies are two things. One is that it primarily promotes the utilization of Battery-as-a-Service. And two, that it has built out an immense infrastructure of battery swap stations in China, and is now doing this to Europe.

Building swap stations are big investments, with estimated costs of $772,00, in China, and charging other companies to use its battery swap stations would be a win-win. It would help NIO monetize its infrastructure, and save other EV manufacturers millions in investments.

In order for other EVs to use these stations, though, there would have to be some degree of standardization in the batteries, but this doesn’t have to be an obstacle. NIO could also lend other companies a hand in designing their batteries, an area in which NIO has extensive expertise. NIO has a total of 2,768 patents in China, 204 in Europe and 193 more in the United States.

NIO is not only an EV manufacturer, it is a company with a very large infrastructure and extensive intellectual capital. This is perhaps the most significant reason I own NIO.

For now, it seems like Lotus Technology could be one of NIO’s first customers. It is worth mentioning though, that Lotus is partially owned by NIO

Risks

What I like about NIO is that it is laying the foundations for long-term success. However, the question remains whether BaaS will become standard practice amongst EV manufacturers. NIO certainly believes so and has placed its battery swap stations next to Tesla’s superchargers, to showcase the improved user experience.

NIO’s battery swap stations can change a battery in a matter of minutes. This also entails that you can always have a fully serviced battery, and the initial cost for the car is cheaper, with the battery cost being spread out month-to-month.

However, while the service is superior, in the long run, this is a more expensive endeavor. It involves changing the battery every time and building out a much more expensive network of stations.

Tesla’s superchargers are much cheaper to install, and they can charge 200 miles in 15 minutes. Is NIO’s battery swap worth it? The consumer will decide that. However, what is most concerning to me is that battery technology is still in its early stages. A lot may change in the next few years, including sizes, materials needed and charging times. Improvements in battery technology could render the advantages of BaaS over regular charging obsolete.

Takeaway

NIO’s shares have slid significantly in the last week, and this doesn’t reflect the reality of what is happening. While supply issues are a challenge, NIO’s expansion in Europe and its growth prospects beyond the sale of EVs should be more than enough to keep investors interested. NIO is a leader in battery technology and is building out an incredibly valuable infrastructure. It’s just a matter of time before the market realizes this.

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