Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio on Thursday announced that it will start delivering vehicles to buyers in Norway in September and will open a flagship store there in the third quarter, in its first overseas foray.

Why it matters: Norway is the first stage of Nio’s ambitious expansion plan for Europe, which holds significant growth opportunities for the EV upstart but may prove to be a challenge.

  • Nio has only sold cars to customers in China and will need to adapt to European regulations, culture, and consumer appetites in a short timeframe.
  • The Europe initiative will run at a loss over the short term as the company is at an early stage of investment, CEO William Li said during a press event in Shanghai on Thursday. “Nio didn’t set near-term sales targets for the Norway team, and instead we will pursue robust growth over the long term,” (our translation) Li added.
  • Company president Qin Lihong told Caixin (in Chinese) during this year’s Auto Shanghai expo that Nio’s average selling price will probably exceed similar models from Audi and other international auto brands. 

Details: Nio plans in August to start customer test drives of its large electric crossover, the ES8, in Norway, and start taking orders and delivering cars to customers in September, Marius Hayler, general manager of Nio Norway, announced via livestream during the event on Thursday. Detailed information on pricing was not disclosed.

  • Nio has plans to enter five other European countries next year, Li said, without further elaborating. The EV maker has been in talks with government officials from Germany, France, and other countries.
  • Li said that he expects annual sales of at least 50,000 units in Europe over an undisclosed timeframe.
  • Qin confirmed that the company will adopt the same strategy as in its home market to win over Norway’s consumers—creating a user community and premium experience with a direct retail and service network.
  • The first Nio House, its clubhouse-style retail showroom, will be open for business during the third quarter on Karl Johans Gate in downtown Oslo, with four smaller Nio Spaces stores expected to open for business in Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, and Kristiansand next year.
  • Nio will also build local power infrastructure facilities in Norway from scratch, with plans to first operate four battery swap stations in Oslo and surrounding areas by year-end. It is partnering with European charging network Plugsurfing to widen customer access to more than 20,000 chargers.
  • The company expects to deliver more products looking ahead, including the ET7, a premium electric sedan scheduled for 2022, when its sales, service, and charging network expands in at least five Norwegian cities. Hayler said the local team will expand to 50 employees from 15 by year-end.

READ MORE: Chinese EV makers face uphill battle with Europe expansion

Context: Competition in Europe is stiff for Chinese EV makers. Norway is a mature EV market with a number of European brands competing for share.

  • Norway became the world’s first country where EVs outsold traditional combustion cars last year, with the market share of EVs growing to 54% from 42% in 2019, Reuters reported in January citing figures from the Norwegian Road Federation.
  • Boosted by heavy government tax incentives, Chinese EV makers are marching into the country. Nio peer Xpeng Motors delivered in December the first 100 of its G3 electric crossovers to customers in Norway, followed by another 200 or so vehicles shipped to the country two months later, according to a company announcement.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen