Our users expect the world to be a better place tomorrow.

Florian Weinzierl, Head of User Relations NIO Germany

NIO delivered its first vehicles in Germany in December 2022. A year later, you had opened NIO Houses in highly frequented downtown locations in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Düsseldorf. Hamburg is set to follow in 2024. What is the feedback like so far?

FW Very positive. We saw a nice example in Berlin just recently. Australian tourists came into our house on Kurfürstendamm. They actually only wanted to ask about an underground connection, but then stayed an hour and even bought a souvenir in the NIO Life Store. I had to grin to myself because NIO is not yet even present in Australia but in Berlin we already managed to inspire people with our brand.

How can you spend an hour in a showroom if you are not there because of the cars?

FW NIO Houses are not traditional showrooms, they are inspiring places for our community. We let visitors see the ways in which we believe car ownership and individual mobility can be organised.

In more specific terms, how can we picture a visit?

FW All the houses have eight different environments. Alongside the showroom for the vehicles, they include our labs, with bookable meeting rooms and workplaces, a little like co-working spaces, a library, a gallery with alternating exhibitions each month, a forum with flexible seating arrangements for events of all kinds and the lounge as a place for calm and relaxation. We also have a children’s play area that is in great demand. And then there is the café, of course, where a trained barista is always on duty.

Can I discuss the cars with all employees? Or do you rely on sales staff?

FW The baristas are also familiar with our cars and able to answer basic questions from users. For specific sales topics, we nevertheless refer users to the fellows in the house. These can be viewed as traditional sales staff and also take care of service enquiries.

How do you attract interested parties if they do not happen to drop in by chance?

FW The houses are designed to be very light and welcoming. The café I mentioned is always on the ground floor and easily visible for passers-by. But the events are the main attraction. This year, we had around 500 free events: running groups, yoga training, box-fit courses, as well as social media training and musical get-togethers for parents and children. We even host lounge concerts with up-and-coming local musicians, which always attract a full house.

Could people not have the same experience, maybe even more targeted, in a concert hall or a fitness studio?

FW A concert hall focuses exclusively on the music and a fitness studio is all about sport. We on the other hand unite very many different aspects of a certain lifestyle in a single house. And we bring together very different people who on one level all share the same mind-set.

Are the NIO Houses your primary touchpoint with users?

FW In the offline world, yes. Online, our main touchpoint is our NIO app, for which we achieved 70,000 downloads in Germany in the first year alone. That is where our community meets in the digital world.

Numerous car brands now have their own apps.

FW Well yes, most of them are now putting together various components retrospectively. NIO has implemented the community concept from the very outset and also builds its vehicles based on the wishes of the community. The idea of co-creation has extremely strong roots in our concept.

Can users give feedback about the interior design via the app, for example, and then expect this to be factored into the design of the next vehicle series?

FW Absolutely. But it also works at shorter notice. At first, not all users were enamoured of the noise made by our indicators. So we worked on a new signal tone with our developers and tried this out in feedback loops with users. Just a few weeks later, users were able to load the update into the vehicle by 5G module. This process is not only about the vehicles themselves, but also about the business model. When we entered the market, we intended to offer the cars solely on a subscription basis, including all costs. As we approached the launch event, however, we saw a run of interested customers who absolutely wanted to buy the car. In liaison with the other European countries, we therefore developed a purchase model in just seven weeks.

Do you nevertheless see a future for the subscription model?

FW We see a great future for it and are maintaining the NIO subscription. People in our community are often quite independent, they spend half the year here and the other half abroad. They may live in the city, but they also love travelling to the mountains. Why should they have to opt for one single vehicle type? Or have their car standing here the whole year if they spend the winter in South Africa?

That sounds like a fantastic target group. How do you picture your community?

FW We are basically there for everyone but we have noticed that our brand seems to attract a particular type of person. We refer to them as optimistic trendsetters. They are cosmopolitan, digitally networked people who strive for individuality but also want to share their experiences with likeminded people. More than anything, they are highly optimistic about the future. They expect the world to be a better place tomorrow.

Are they idealists, e-mobility fans or members of the last generation?

FW I think around eighty percent of our customers are acting on their convictions, but not along the lines of the last generation. The people we attract would rather tend to say: “OK, we’re on board, we’ll help reshape mobility”. More like a “first sustainable generation”.

Was that also your own motivation to work at a newcomer to the car market with these essential values?

FW On the one hand, yes. I myself am a young father and I would also like my daughter to discover a world of biodiversity, healthy air and clean water. On the other hand, after several years at my previous employer, Europe’s leading mobility provider, I felt a need for new experiences. NIO is a good place for that. You learn things here that are still unaccustomed in many other companies.

Thank you for talking to us and for these fascinating insights!