NIO Ends Free Battery Swap for New Customers

Battery swapping BEV maker NIO will end its free battery swap service for all new customers while dropping prices in a bid to boost flagging sales.

The Chinese automaker is facing a stiff price war in its domestic market and faces mounting pressure over earnings losses and lukewarm sales, Reuters reports. It will cut prices by 30,000 yuan ($4,200) for all models including its revamped ES6 and ES8 sports utility vehicles with immediate effect according to a company statement. That equates to discounts ranging from 6% to 9% on its cars.

NIO had been offering the swapping services for free at least four times each month to existing owners, a major market disruptor that attracted many to the brand because it allowed for owners to cover long distances without time-sapping stops to recharge. It also gave the vehicles a much longer potential lifecycle than other BEVs, such as Tesla, that have to be scrapped when built-in battery packs have degraded beyond reasonable use.

Nio said in February it would accelerate expansion of its batter swapping network with a plan to build 1,000 swapping stations in China this year to bring the total number of such sites to 2,300 by year-end. However, the huge capital investment required to keep the specialized infrastructure viable has been questioned by investors for dragging on its profitability. Its net loss reached 4.7Bn yuan in the first quarter, compared to 1.8Bn  in the same period a year earlier.

NIO chief executive William Li referring to the price cuts and the new policy on battery swapping, said on the company’s social media app: “The adjustments had been discussed internally for quite a while and we took advice and suggestions from some users. It is the best timing to publish it … but we can’t make everyone happy.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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