Chinese Tesla Rival NIO's New SUV Is a Powerhouse

Chinese electric-vehicle maker NIO (NYSE: NIO) unveiled its second mass-market model at an elaborate event in Shanghai on Dec. 17. The all-new ES6 is an upscale, five-passenger SUV that should help NIO build on the early success of its first model, the larger ES8 SUV.

Here's what we know.

About the all-new NIO ES6

NIO's first SUV, the ES8, made it clear that the company is inspired by (and aiming at) Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). The all-new ES6 doesn't compete directly with any current Tesla model, but it's another riff on the idea of a high-performing upscale electric vehicle.

The ES6 comes standard with dual motors, with an interesting twist. The front motor is a permanent-magnet unit, delivering high efficiency; the rear motor is an induction design, delivering higher performance. The idea is that, when operating together, the two motors will give the ES6 both brisk acceleration and good range.

Of course, the range and acceleration specifics vary depending on how the ES6 is configured. Two battery packs will be offered, in two ES6 models. In top configuration, with an 84 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, the ES6 will accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 4.7 seconds and have 510 kilometers of range (about 316 miles) per the generous NEDC test standard.

Inside, the ES6 appears to be nicely trimmed, with leather and upscale metal accents. There's a large (11.3 inches) touchscreen and an updated version of NIO's voice-activated AI assistant, called NOMI. The ES6 seats five people in two rows.

NIO has priced the ES6 competitively, a step down from the larger ES8. The top-of-the-line ES6 starts at the same price, 448,000 yuan, as the base-model ES8 -- a price roughly half of what Tesla charges for the base 75D version of its Model X SUV.

Model 0-100 km/h Acceleration Battery Range (NEDC) Price Before Subsidies
ES6 Standard Version 5.6 seconds 70 kWh 410 km 358,000 RMB (about $52,000)
5.6 seconds 84 kWh 480 km 408,000 RMB (about $59,000)
ES6 Performance Version 4.7 seconds 70 kWh 430 km 398,000 RMB (about $57,700)
4.7 seconds 84 kWh 510 km 448,000 RMB (about $65,000)

The ES6 will be manufactured alongside the ES8 at a factory owned by Chinese automaker JAC Motors. NIO said deliveries will begin in June of 2019.

The ES6 should help NIO build on its early success

So far, NIO's ramp-up is on track. Deliveries of the larger ES6 have ramped up more or less smoothly since production began at the end of June. NIO's chief financial officer, Louis Hsieh, confirmed earlier this month that the company is on track to meet its full-year goal of 10,000 ES8 deliveries.

While production and deliveries have ramped up in line with expectations, the company isn't yet profitable. NIO posted an operating loss of $409.1 million in the third quarter -- but note that it shipped just 3,268 vehicles in the quarter, generating revenue of $214 million.

The company's initial public offering, in September, raised about $1 billion. Assuming sales continue to grow as expected, NIO should have enough cash to make it to profitability without additional capital raises -- assuming that the ES6 is a success, of course.

On paper, at least, the ES6 looks likely to do well. We'll see how buyers react once the first vehicles begin shipping next summer.

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John Rosevear has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.