This past November, NIO experienced great ups and downs.
First, at the beginning of the month, after the layoffs storm, negative news broke that NIO was “on the verge of collapse.” By the end of the month, NIO had successively reached cooperation agreements with Changan and Geely on the power exchange business, and the power exchange business it had been investing in for a long time was recognized by the industry.
On December 5, the day after obtaining the independent car building license, NIO announced its financial report for the third quarter of 2023. Revenue was 19.07 billion yuan, and 55,000 new vehicles were delivered. Both of these hit record highs in a single quarter.
NIO, which has been doing good things recently, seems to be waiting for a new turning point.
Revenue and delivery reached record highs, and losses improved
According to financial reports, NIO's revenue for the third quarter reached 19.07 billion yuan, up 46.6% year on year. Compared with the previous quarter's increase of 117.4%, a record high.
The increase in revenue was mainly due to the increase in delivery volume. NIO delivered 55,432 new vehicles in the third quarter, an increase of 75.4% over the previous year and an increase of 135.7% over the previous year, which also reached a new high.
In June of this year, NIO announced adjustments to the first car owner's power exchange benefits, abolish free electricity exchanges, and reduce the starting price of all models by 30,000 yuan. After this adjustment, market feedback was quite positive, and sales volume in July directly broke through the 20,000 vehicle mark. However, in May of this year, NIO's sales volume once fell to only 6,155 units.
As delivery volume increased, NIO's gross margin of vehicles also returned to double digits in the third quarter, reaching 11%, a significant increase from 6.2% in the second quarter. In the third quarter earnings conference call, NIO stated that it mainly benefited from the scale effect brought about by an increase in the share of high-priced models, a decrease in parts costs, and an increase in delivery volume, combined with the refined management of sales policies.
Meanwhile, NIO Finance Senior Vice President Qu Yu said in a conference call that considering the increase in production efficiency, the further decline in lithium carbonate prices, and the reduction in component costs, the fourth quarter gross margin is confident that it can reach the 15% target. In the long run, NIO is also confident of achieving a vehicle gross profit margin of 15%-18% in 2024.
However, financial reports show that NIO's net loss for the third quarter still reached 4,557 billion yuan, an increase of 10.8% over the previous year, but fortunately it has narrowed somewhat. Compared with the net loss of 6.055 billion yuan in the second quarter, it is 24.8% lower than the same period last year, and it is also a significant improvement over the same period last year.
R&D investment continues to increase, and NIO can only start saving money
As for the huge losses, apart from the fact that sales have not yet reached a level where losses can be spread evenly, another important reason is that there are too many places to spend money, especially investment in research and development, which continues to increase.
Financial reports show that NIO spent 3.04 billion yuan on R&D in the third quarter. Although this is a decrease from 3.3 billion yuan in the previous quarter, it still far surpasses other new car companies. In the first three quarters of this year, NIO's total R&D investment reached 9.459 billion yuan.
Li Bin said, “This R&D investment scale is within NIO's reach, and it is also a basic guarantee for our participation in the next stage of increasingly intense competition for smart electric vehicles.”
NIO revealed during the earnings conference call that on the upcoming NIO Day, a new flagship model will also be unveiled, which will be equipped with many leading technologies. In addition, the first model of NIO's second brand has also completed trial production of a VB car, which is expected to be officially unveiled in the second half of 2024.
In terms of technology, NIO also insists on self-research. At the innovative technology NIO IN event held in September, NIO showcased a full technology stack composed of 12 technologies, including automotive intelligent hardware, battery systems, electric drive systems, and operating systems, and released a self-developed lidar master control chip called “Yang Jian.”
All of this requires constant spending of money. Even though NIO now has 45.2 billion yuan in cash reserves, it is difficult to maintain continuous investment on this scale, so NIO chose to reduce personnel and postpone project investment.
On November 3, Li Bin issued a letter to all employees confirming that the company will reduce jobs by 10%, while at the same time postponing and cutting investment in projects that cannot improve the company's financial performance within 3 years. According to media reports, NIO's current adjustments mainly include the battery, chip, and mobile phone departments. In particular, the battery department has taken the lead in layoffs, mainly involving positions related to mass production and industrialization.
Li Bin also explained this during the earnings call, saying, “After several years of development, the internal organization has had some inefficient and repeated construction situations. Therefore, we have merged some departments and positions that have been built repeatedly this time, and there are some relatively inefficient internal work processes, division of labor, and positions, and we have also made some changes. Specifically, in terms of projects, investment in projects that cannot improve the company's financial performance within three years will be cut or postponed.”
At the same time, Li Bin also emphasized NIO's top three priorities at present. The first is to ensure long-term investment in core key technologies; the second is to increase sales staff and service outlets; and the third is to ensure the launch of nine core products from the three brands as scheduled.
Electricity exchange has always been recognized by the industry, and NIO ushered in the dawn
In the eyes of the outside world, NIO exchanges electricity for success, and electricity for failure.
The power exchange model developed by NIO has unique advantages at this stage, even for quite a long period of time, for many car owners. This is also an important reason why many car owners choose NIO.
However, for a long time, NIO needed to spend huge sums of money to build and maintain power exchange stations, which has also dragged down NIO's financial situation to a large extent.
If power exchange stations are to be profitable, utilization must be increased. Shen Fei, vice president of NIO Auto, said in an interview not long ago that recently every NIO power exchange station has averaged about 35-36 orders per day, but if it can achieve 50-60 orders a day, even if the power exchange stations and overcharging stations are priced at the same level, they are close to break-even.
If you want to improve utilization, then you need to get everyone to do it together. At the end of November, NIO announced that it had reached a cooperation agreement with Changan and Geely on the power exchange business. In the future, it will jointly develop electric exchange models and battery standards, and will also share power exchange stations.
With the addition of other car companies, NIO's investment in the construction of power exchange stations is bound to decrease. At the same time, adding more brand models to the power exchange network can also greatly increase the utilization rate of power exchange stations.
However, Li Bin also stressed that sharing the power exchange network will not affect the power exchange experience of existing NIO car owners; what is shared with the outside world is the next generation of super-charged quick-change battery packs for the public. NIO will begin building a shared power exchange network in 2024, and this shared power exchange network can be developed simultaneously for existing NIO users, Alpine users, and cooperative third parties.
If NIO's power exchange standards can become common standards in the industry, then power exchange will truly become NIO's moat.