Google and Baidu, Twitter and Weibo, WhatsApp and WeChat, YouTube and YouKu… It seems just about every major Western tech startup has a carbon copy in China. And a carbon copy that is beating them at their own game at that. Or, at least, beating them on the mainland. For a long time Tesla was seen as the exception. But Tesla too might find itself prey to local competition after Chinese startup Nio unveiled its electric SUV, the Nio ES8, at the Shanghai Motor Show Wednesday.
The Shanghai-based upstart announced that the car will go into production later this year, with deliveries expected in 2018. While no details of range, acceleration or horsepower were disclosed, the electric SUV will seat seven and come with a swappable battery. It will feature an array of digital instruments and a large infotainment console.
China is a huge market for electric car sales, with more annual sales than both the US and Europe. Experts expect sales to increase even further following a decision by the government to tighten fuel emission standards. For its part, Tesla has made great inroads into the Chinese market, with revenue reaching about $1 billion in 2016. The ambitious Silicon Valley automaker hopes to continue its rise in the East, but with new local competition and fears that China is becoming increasingly hostile to foreign firms, its future success is certainly not guaranteed. As the old Chinese proverb goes, ‘A powerful dragon cannot crush a local snake.’ Could this be the end of Tesla’s run in the Middle Kingdom? Only time will tell.