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INSIGHTS / MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Li Bin: Aiming for more than a Chinese copy of Tesla

China · Jun 19, 2019· By Wang Xiao'e

© CompassList

Good at making and investing money, he founded two companies that went on to list on the NYSE and invested in over 40 startups

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer NIO is often known as the local rival of Tesla, but its founder Li Bin refuses to be compared to Elon Musk.

“I am not a fan of Musk... NIO is not a follower of Tesla either," he once said. "We are trying to figure out what we can do to differentiate ourselves from Tesla and do an even better job.” 

Li personally invested US$150 million in the business when it was founded in 2014. His faith in NIO was sometimes interpreted by outsiders, or even by peers, as overoptimism.

In August 2018, He Xiaopeng, CEO of Xpeng Motors, another Chinese EV maker, said that no EV startups could deliver 10,000 units that year because of quality control issues and cashflow pressures. But Li bet otherwise, saying NIO could do so.

Li finally won the wager, when NIO handed over a total of 11,348 vehicles to its customers by the end of 2018, close to Tesla’s 13,000 deliveries in China. Among the raft of other EV startups such as Xpeng Motors and Weltmeister, NIO was the first to hit the milestone of 10,000-unit annual delivery.

2018 was undoubtedly a standout year for NIO. The EV maker delivered its first SUV, the ES8, in June and went public at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in September. In December, it unveiled the second mass production model, the ES6, which is expected to be delivered June 2019.

Edited by Matt Stanley

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