Lexus' annual sales of internal combustion engine vehicles in China are in the range of 200,000 units.

(Image credit: CnEVPost)

William Li, founder, chairman and CEO of NIO (NYSE: ), did not give a direct answer when asked about the company's 2023 sales target, but did give an interesting hint.

NIO's sales next year are expected to surpass Lexus' internal combustion car sales in China, Li said in a group interview with the media today. The company launched two models, the EC7 and the new ES8, at yesterday's NIO Day 2022 event.

Lexus sold about 200,000 fuel vehicles in China last year, and Li's statement means that NIO is expected to sell more than 200,000 vehicles in 2023.

From January to November 2022, NIO delivered 106,671 units, up 31.79 percent from 80,940 units in the same period last year. The company delivered 91,429 vehicles in 2021.

In the Chinese premium car market, there have been some changes this year, and those changes will accelerate over the next two years, Li said today.

Lexus is a brand that is very well recognized by everyone, but this year they are under a lot of pressure, he said.

"Our sales for the whole year next year are definitely still far away from the sales of internal combustion engine cars of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and we need to respect the logic. However, I am very confident that we will outsell Lexus' fuel cars next year," Li said.

NIO co-founder and president Qin Lihong added that he does not think the goal will be difficult to achieve.

"Lexus sales are relatively stable this year, probably down a bit from last year. They were probably slightly above 200,000 units last year, and this year they are estimated to be close to 200,000 units," Qin said.

"I think it is possible, after all, I think we are on the side with the trend," Qin said.

Notably, NIO's management believes the market will face a big challenge in the first half of next year as China's state subsidies for new energy vehicles (NEVs) expire at the end of the year.

The expiring subsidies could cause some consumers to bring forward their demand for next year's vehicles this year. In addition, the impact of the Covid outbreak on the supply chain and the recovery of consumer confidence will take time, Li said.

"I think (the NEV market) will be under more pressure in the first half of next year on both the supply and demand side, but definitely a little bit more pressure on demand," Li said.

Li believes China's NEV market will face a period of pressure in the first half of next year, but if looking on the bright side, the market can gradually recover in the second quarter or in May.