Dozens of EV startups sprouted in China since 2014 as the technology first stirred here, but most of those ventures vanished after burning through their initial capital.
But three startups — Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto — proved to be survivors, to some extent by mimicking Tesla in their marketing and distribution strategies.
Those three manufacturers market their products as intelligent and connected vehicles, with intelligent in-vehicle operating systems supporting adaptive cruise control, advanced driver-assistance functions and autonomous parking.
They also rely on direct sales and delivery channels, showcasing their products at experience centers.
Yet the trio are trying not to compete head-to-head with Tesla.
Their vehicles are bigger than Tesla's popular Model 3 and Model Y, and their interiors are more luxurious, including leather seats and instrument panels — in sharp contrast to Tesla's minimalist interior design.
Those product strategies have made their vehicles appealing not just to tech-savvy young customers, but also to more cautious older buyers shopping for family cars.
Nio, which has three products — two SUVs and a coupe-like crossover priced at the equivalent of $66,000 to $96,000 — has gone the extra mile by building public battery-charging stations.
In the second quarter, the company installed more than 100 battery-swap stations across China, lifting its total to 300.
The effort to reassure consumers seems to be paying off. Nio delivered 41,956 vehicles in the first half of this year, nearly the number it sold in all of 2020.
Xpeng, with a full-size sedan and crossover in its product mix, delivered 30,738 vehicles in the first six months, surpassing its volume for the previous year. Li Auto, which has only an SUV to offer, reached a record high of 7,713 sales for June.