NIO, the unseen but well-heard Chinese luxury competitor that sits a little above Tesla, is moving into mainstream waters. NIO CEO William Li confirmed the name of its latest effort—ONVO. This cheaper brand is meant to target family-oriented buyers, compared to the higher-end upscale market that NIO courts.

Previously, ONVO was referred to as “ALPS” by much of the media, however, Li trademarked the ONVO name late last year and officially confirmed it this week. Its first car, codenamed L60, will aim right at the Tesla Model Y and other competitors. In China, ONVO will be called Ledao.

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NIO Needs More Volume

NIO is impressive but it needs a road to profitability and volume as fast as possible. Its full lineup of sleek-looking sedans and crossovers with battery-swapping technology may be cool, but its stock price has dropped nearly 40% in the past six months. 

Pictures of the L60 leaked on social media, allegedly from an employee who works for one of NIO’s suppliers. In it, we saw a coupe-like, fastback crossover very much in the spirit of the Tesla Model Y. 

Surprisingly, Li confirmed that NIO’s battery-swapping technology will make it to the ONVO L60. So, we’re looking at a crossover that is planned to undercut the Tesla Model Y but potentially completely remove most range anxiety and charging station woes via a battery swap technology. 

NIO has plans for a brand even further downmarket from that, called Firefly. Firefly doesn’t have an official name, but it and ONVO will venture outside of China and into Europe and beyond. Firefly is still going to have somewhat of a premium feel. Li says it will aim at Mini and other small premium EVs elsewhere.

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Both Firefly and ONVO are important for NIO. Despite its models being critical darlings inside and out of China, the brand has struggled deeply with volume and profitability. These cheaper models should broaden the appeal of NIO as a whole and move more units.

It’s not clear if NIO, ONVO, or Firefly will ever come to the US. NIO does have a California office, and it’s not uncommon to see some foreign-market NIO models driving around, but no official announcement has been made. At the very least, ONVO and Firefly are planned for many European markets. ONVO will launch in China this coming May, with European sales to follow soon. Firefly is planned to launch in 2025. 

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