Two Chinese EV Makers Gear Up For Global Stage

Two of China’s EV manufacturers have shown clear expansion ambitions in presenting their latest models at the 2019 Shanghai International Auto Show.

While NIO has always expressed it global intent as it pulled the wraps of its first executive saloon car, a less well-known brand, Aiways, has unveiled a concept that it says could form the basis of a new global platform. Both have produced seriously capable looking vehicles that the big Western brands must begin to consider as future competition.

Right from the West’s first sight of the NIO EP9 hypercar BEV launched in at the Saatchi Gallery in London’s upmarket Chelsea area in 2016, I was told by executives at the launch that exporting vehicles to global markets was on their strategic plan. Not least because it called itself a global start-up with offices and design engineers scattered at various locations around the world.

Since then it created its first mass-market product, the ES8 full-size SUV whose chief claim to fame was having a swap out battery pack that can be changed in the same time as filling a gas tank. With the help of Chinese local authorities, it has set up an extensive network of service stations that can store and swap fully charged batteries for depleted one making long distance BEV travel a reality.

Now it’s latest vehicle, the ET Preview, targets the executive market with a smart highway cruiser boasting all the potential of the SUV but in a more premium package. More tellingly perhaps than the vehicle itself is the carmaker’s announcement that it will open up its ‘one click for power’ fast charging network to users of all EVs as a move into the energy provision sector.

Aiways, too, claims an international focus with many of its top executives boasting experience at high levels with some of the top automaker brands and design houses. This is clearly visible in its U7 ion concept that follows its mid-size U5 SUV currently in production at its plant in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province, that it promises will arrive in European showrooms this year following its debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

The U7 ion concept employs a four-space interior that claims to provide different areas to suit the changing needs of family, mobility, work and relaxation. It claims the technology of an integrated self-learning robot, which can move around the interior of the vehicle to ensure occupants’ comfort at all times. There are 12 screens scattered around the cabin, including a dashboard touchscreen in the steering wheel and another built into a smart mobile console, which can travel around the cabin.

While this might seem a bit pie-in-the-sky, the $1.9Bn it has spent on its new production plant intended to be able to build up to 300,000 annually is far from chicken feed and points to the weight of its international ambitions. Something underlined by Aiways president Samuel Fu (Fu Qiang), saying: “Our presence at Auto Shanghai, from our new U7 ion concept and our production-ready U5 SUV to our impressive show stand, shows our drive and ambition to be a truly global mobility provider. While the U5 will go on sale in Europe in just a few months, the U7 ion concept previews the next exciting model in our product offensive. Across all our vehicles you will find a common thread – an enjoyable driving experience that caters to your lifestyle.”

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

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