A tender announcement issued half a month ago by NIO's OEM JAC was widely reported in the Chinese auto media today, sparking speculation that the electric carmaker will launch an entry-level model.
The announcement, made on May 10, showed that JAC is inviting bids for the construction of a production line for JAC-NIO's 60,000-unit-per-year model codenamed "Gemini".
However, CnEVPost found that a tender announcement for the "Gemini" model was first published on April 27, but the project involved in the tender was slightly different from that of May 10.
On May 18, the May 10 tender document was reissued, extending the deadline from May 30 to June 9.
Autohome.com.cn reported that the car is positioned lower than the current NIO models, and that "Gemini" may be a model code or project name, not the name of the final model to be launched.
Because of its positioning, the "Gemini" may be under the new brand, the report said.
The current NIO models are focused on the high-end market and are priced at no less than RMB 350,000 ($54,650), so the "Gemini" model may target the market below RMB 300,000 or even lower to complement the NIO, the report said.
In fact, on March 2 this year, in a conference call after NIO's fourth-quarter earnings, William Li, founder, chairman, and CEO of NIO, mentioned that it is possible for NIO to create a new brand to enter the mass market, but the NIO brand will not do so.
"We are actively looking at ways to enter the mass market more aggressively, which is a long-term strategy for us," Li said.
Notably, on May 24, NIO announced that it has renewed its manufacturing contract with JAC, which will continue to produce the ES8, ES6, EC6, ET7, and possibly other NIO models from May 2021 to May 2024.
Under the agreement, JAC will expand its annual production capacity to 240,000 units to meet NIO's growing demand.
If NIO launches a new mass-market-oriented brand in the future, then this move may be a way to lay the groundwork for that.