OPINION | NIO’s Cat named Jin

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In 2009, I adopted a cat. It was a red-haired male, about a year old, and maltreated in the home he was born in. After a conspicuous and reluctant first few weeks from his side, he turned into a fun, playful, and affectionate cat. I named him Tazio, after an Italian racecar driver from the 1930s. Tazio and I lived happily together for nine years, but then in late 2018, he stopped eating. And when he tried to eat something, he threw it up again moments later. He had some kind of disease, but unfortunately, the vet couldn’t diagnose it. It was clear that Tazio was in a lot of pain and I had to let him go.

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About a year later, I was watching an internet stream of NIO day. In the running up to the live event, they showed some branding videos, based on real-life stories by NIO owners. Then, the following video came up (please watch it):

NIO video “A cat named Jin”

I was sitting there in front of a computer screen, fighting back the tears.

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Recently, I came across this video again and it affected me all over again. It is well made and the story is so recognizable and relatable. But this time it got me thinking: had I ever been brought close to tears by a car advert, or any advert at all? NIO makes these kinds of videos every year and I am a big fan. They are very well executed and tell compelling stories. They actually make me want to be a part of that community.

I live in the Netherlands and have been interested in cars all of my life and in electric cars since I read up on climate change and energy use about 20 years ago. Apart from the great CarNewsChina, I also follow some Dutch or English language car websites and clean tech websites. I tell you this, because on these websites there’s an interesting trend emerging. While Chinese car manufacturers are increasing their efforts to export cars to Europe, there is growing resistance against these manufacturers in the comment sections of these websites.

What would you choose: Renault Megane E-tech, Volkswagen ID.3, or MG4?

Nasty comments on social media, forums, or comment sections are not surprising, but the extent to which Chinese manufacturers are vilified is quite overwhelming. Manufacturers and the state are seen as the same and the state is accused of the most heinous crimes. You can read often about “world domination”. China’s neutral position on the Russian-Ukraine War doesn’t help either.

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And it becomes even worse. A highly regarded journalistic Dutch TV show aired a sensational piece on the perceived dangers of spyware in Chinese cars last week. They didn’t offer any reason for concern or any clue there could be something wrong. In fact, the only Chinese manufacturer they consulted (Dongfeng’s Voyah), stated that no user data would be transferred to China and that they fully comply with EU privacy laws. Still, the report ended with a scientist, unrelated to the car industry, advising against buying a Chinese car.

China’s history and today’s society are not well-known or well-understood in the West. Many biased media reports do not exactly help to improve the situation. Some of the negative sentiments are quite understandable. It has to be said though, that when you follow some Westerners living in China, source your news from more than just the Western media, and try to understand a little about China’s history, a rather different picture emerges. However, within the current polarised geo-political climate that wil be a difficult story to tell.

What would you choose: BYD Atto 3 or Kia Niro EV?

MG and BYD have entered the Dutch market at some scale. They both carefully avoid acknowledging their Chinese origins in their adverts and public outings. Most other western brands proudly proclaim or use their roots as a selling point. They even have slogans in the language of origin, like “Das Auto” or “Createur d’Automobiles”. BYD on the other hand, changed the name of its main model from Chinese sounding Yuan Plus to the language neutral Atto 3.

The United States adopted the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). When it comes to lithium batteries, that’s a highly protectionist policy, the exact opposite of free trade. Details of the IRA have yet to be finalized, but when it will be anywhere near as stringent as proposed, Europe will likely be forced to do something similar, at least partially. This is a bad thing for consumers and the world, as it will drive up prices and slow down the transition to clean transport. The US and EU don’t have a mature battery industry, whereas China does, including the world’s most advanced and carbon-neutral battery factory (CATL’s plant in Sichuan province). Instead of being afraid of China’s market dominance, we should profit from their mature industry, while building up our own.

What would you choose: Mercedes-Benz EQE or NIO ET7?

So, Chinese manufacturers have a mountain to climb. They will encounter popular and political opposition in the West. In fact, on the aforementioned websites, people only want to consider a Chinese car when it is considerably cheaper than a Western model. And that’s a market position the Chinese want to avoid. They have learned from experience in their own country that it’s far easier to build a brand image from small volume high value, than turn a budget brand into a mainstream brand. That seems to me like a catch-22.

NIO comes in at the high end of the market and sales so far are slightly disappointing. Of course it’s still early days and the brand strategy hasn’t fully unfolded yet. NIO Houses are still under construction and the marketing effort needs to improve. European magazines (reluctantly) rate the ET7 among the leading premium sedans, on par with the German brands. Now the public needs to be convinced.

Maybe NIO should buy the advertising space during the halftime break of the Champions League final and show “A cat named Jin” to the millions.

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  1. Unfortunately (i am from the Netherlands too) this demonizing is the case. The more Chinese manufactured cars are imported to Europe, the more vilification occurs (in Dutch car news websites in the comment sections). The same non-arguments are used, “human rights” is one of the most heared nonsens, this is not the case when it is about American cars, suddenly “human rights” are of no issue.

  2. Political Xenophobia will force the Chinese manufacturers, who wish to be world-wide players, to build vehicles outside China. In the history of the industry, this has always been the case. In the end, I think many Chinese brands will do this because they know they can compete with any Western manufacturer on an even playing field.

  3. I have gotten involved in some of this websites Facebook post. It is just so hard to see the negative comments that make no sense at all. So many unrelated political comments. I faced the face things with my company as I own a factory in China. My current company is 8 years old and 3 years ago I noticed a swing in public perception for the better. We produce our own brand as well as OEM products and on Facebook I see customers that know the product was produced by us defending our product from anyone saying it is crap made in China. As strong as anyone argues against China made there are 2-3 other people arguing against them. This same thing willl happen for Chinese car brands that can win over owners. As a wonder of a Link and co 03+ and knowing what Geely is putting out, it is going to happen. It will take some time and cost a lot but it in the end happy customers will have to be the ones to actually change the perception.

  4. In Europe Nio ET5 without battery costs $50,000, Tesla Model 3 RWD with battery costs $41,000, why would anyone buy a Nio? The same goes for all other Chinese brands. Chery Omoda 5 price starts at $30,000, BYD starts at $38,000. These brands do not have any type of coverage in the area, if you have a problem you are not sure about repairs. There are only 2 brands that are working well in Europe: Smart (Geely) and MG (SAIC). Smart #1 starts at $41,000 but has a nationwide service network. MG makes very popular electric cars, MG 4, 5, ZS, Marvel R are cheap and worth a lot. MG is today the best Chinese brand in Europe and highly appreciated in Italy with a 7-year warranty on the whole car. If Chinese cars want to sell in Europe, they must necessarily focus on 4 aspects: best value for money, European dimensions (maximum 4.4 meters), extensive assistance network and many years of warranty. Just like MG is doing. Stop crying and complaining, copy from those who are doing well. We Europeans don’t want to pay double what the Chinese pay for Chinese cars.


  5. As a European I would buy premium chinese car but my definition for premium is “the best features for the best price”. But I agree with Enzo: if you have a problem you are not sure about repairs or spare parts. I would even consider buying a chinse luxury car but it this also comes down to: if you have a problem you are not sure about repairs or spare parts.
    Without a proper service network it a car brand will fail to sell cars.

    • Ok, if the premium definition is “the best features for the best price” I agree with you. But at the moment I don’t see any “premium” chinese brand in Europe. Nio is pricier then Tesla. Omoda 5 (the ev version) will cost as a Tesla Model Y.

      In 2025 we will have Renault 4, Renault 5 and Volkswagen ID.Golf with price starting at 25000 $. Beautiful cars, retromod style/instant classic, nice assistance, low price, enough power (over 200 hp) and over 400 km WLTP range. And we could also have Tesla Model “2” at that price.

      So why we should buy an ev chinese car? There is also a problem with the size/aestethic: the sedan are too long, the cars are not so cool. We need more MG Cyberster, Zeekr X and SSC SC01 and less Aiways U5 and low price is important.

      Aestethic is important too: people are buying ice cars because ev are ugly. Look at Audi A3, starting at 30000 euro: people don’t care they must pay for gasoline, Audi A3 is a wonderful car. Which chinese ev car starts at the price in Europe? MG 4? BYD Dolphin? No way, Audi A3 is 100% a better choice (look at it: https://www.audi.it/it/web/it/modelli/a3/a3-sportback/interni.html ).

      People wants best value for money. Look at USA production. Look at Tesla, Fisker, Dodge. Fisker Ocean costs 41000 $, Byd Atto 3 costs 38000 $ but Fisker Ocean is wonderful! Look at Dodge Daytona SRT starting at 50k with gearbox and 126 db sound with fratzonic chamber. Marvelous cars.

  6. 20 years ago, at the beginning of new millenium, west had a dream. We’ll trade with everyone, and trade will make everyone middle-class. Middle-class people will be peaceful, democratic and globalist, because their good middle-class life depends on global trade.

    Today, the dream is shattered. No matter how much money we poured to Russia, they didn’t push for democrancy, and instead let themself led to a insane war. While lots of people became middle-class in many countries like China, Russia and India, the wealth was not spread equally. Few people became insanely rich, and european middle class started fearing their jobs would be taken by chinese, who work harder and with smaller pay. Chinese would ask why shoudn’t I be able to take your job if I work harder and make a product with value than you? Which is a point fair enough, but leaves the europeans without their comfortable middle-class jobs. Hence the turn xenophobia and protectionism. Neither which is going to secure their jobs, but nobody is offering any alternative positive vision.

  7. In Brazil, as I live here, I perceived these prejudice in late’s 2009/10 when the first chinese companies came down here with imported cars. They’re considered trash and garbage, but comparing with what’s offered at the time by companies like GM, VW, Fiat, Renault and Ford, the main sellers, it was not that bad. They keep pushing forward, in 2013 Chery built a factory here, they almost closed but in 2018 they formed a JV partnership with a Brazilian company called CAOA that already produces Hyundai cars and sells several another brands like Ford and Subaru. That’s when began the changing point came, of course with better and bigger cars like SUVs and sedans with more quality in a medium range of price to the middle class here that have fewer options that in another market. Nowadays, in 2023, the market have been taken by storm by the chinese brands like BYD and GWM (Volvo, let’s it’s Geely representative is the best selling premium brand here too). They’re the best selling electric and hybrids cars here by far, and they got all the principal trophies by Brazilian renowned site and magazine Prêmio UOL Carros with Best electric compact with 1º BYD Dolphin, 2º GWM ORA 03, 3º Renault Kwid e-Tech (also imported from China, Dongfeng made) and 4º Chery iCar (iQ); Best electric sedan with BYD Seal first (ahead of BWM, Audi and Mercedes); 4º Best Compact ICE SUV with CAOA Chery’s Tiggo 5x (Tiggo 4 in overseas markets); Best Medium SUV with 1º GWM Haval H6, 2º BYD Song Plus, 3º Ford Territory (Ford-Changan-JMC’s production, also imported from China to Brazil), 2º Best Eletrict Premium SUV with Volvo EX30. And The Spotlight of the Year the best highlight: BYD Dolphin 1º, GWM Haval H6 2º and Volvo EX30 4º. Best Brand of 2023 in Brazil: 1º BYD, 2º GWM. Isnt’ it impressive?


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