With NIO's broad price cuts and the rapid rollout of new NT 2.0 models, it could see a considerabe sales rebound in the second half of the year, according to Edison Yu's team.
NIO (NYSE: NIO) management expressed a rare cautious approach to future spending during last week's earnings call, and this week let the purchase threshold for the entire lineup drop. To Deutsche Bank, this series of moves suggests that NIO is finally starting to show real urgency.
"Our main takeaway following 1Q earnings and hosting NIO management (CFO in person in NYC this week) is that the urgency to capture volume and cut back spending is finally here," analyst Edison Yu's team said in a research note sent to investors today.
With NIO's broad price cut and the rapid rollout of the new NT 2.0 model, its sales can rebound considerably in the second half of the year, paving the way for 20,000 units per month, the team said.
In addition, as NIO reduces spending on non-core initiatives, its operating expenses and capital expenditures should be much more controlled, the team added.
NIO reported weaker-than-expected first-quarter results on June 9, with gross margins falling to just 1.5 percent due to promotional activities.
The company's management said during the earnings call that NIO will manage its cash flow carefully, postpone some of its fixed asset investments and focus on the countries it has already entered in Europe.
NIO is confident that it will see sales of more than 20,000 units per month in the second half of the year, William Li, the company's founder, chairman and CEO, said at the time.
On June 12, NIO lowered the starting prices of its entire new model lineup by RMB 30,000 yuan ($4,200), but the previously free battery swap service several times a month became a paid option.
Yu's team said in the research note today that they applaud the move as demand for NIO's existing models, particularly sedans, has been struggling in recent months.
"In our view, pricing is an issue for getting incremental buyers considering premium BEVs in general have sold poorly this year," the team wrote.
Despite the ongoing platform changeover for NIO's three first-generation SUVs, combined sales of the Avatr 11, IM LS7 and XPeng G9 averaged only about 4,500 units per month this year, about half of what the Audi Q5 sells locally in China, the team noted.
NIO's pricing is the highest among the upstart brands. In addition to price adjustments, the company must effectively compete with internal combustion engine vehicle makers, and extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) makers, and enhance its brand appeal, Yu's team said.
The electrification of China's premium car market appears to be proceeding more slowly, which may be counterintuitive to those outside of China, the team said.
They explained further:
Based on our analysis of the premium SUV market (>300k RMB), the BEV mix is only 12% YTD, compared with PHEV (includes EREV) at 18%, leaving 70% for ICE.
This compares with the overall market that is 21% BEV and 10% PHEV, showing customer preferences are quite different depending on the sub-segment.
The team's interpretation of this is that the EREV value proposition is resonating with a broader audience than expected, and Li Auto has done a very effective job at maximizing.
In addition, Yu's team believes that NIO's brand appeal has hit a wall of sorts as it struggles to gain momentum outside of Shanghai and surrounding provinces and outside of financial and tech social circles.
The performance of NIO's best-selling ET5 is a case in point. Nearly 40 percent of the model's sales come from Shanghai and surrounding provinces, and while the ET5 theoretically has the broadest appeal among NIO's offerings, sales in the south have been quite poor, the team said.
"Moreover, based on our channel checks, affluent older customers simply are not buying into the brand (yet) and still prefer traditional BBA cars (i.e., greater loyalty)," the team said.
For investors, they are shifting to a less negative view as NIO's sales and cash burn trajectory appears to be reversing, the team said.
Depending on how the second half of the year plays out, NIO's stock price could remain volatile until there is a clear upward trajectory in sales, according to the team.
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