NIU remains one of the leading electric scooter companies in the world, both in sales as well as technology. The company’s stock, traded on the NASDAQ, is up 91% year-to-date and 267% from its low during the pandemic.
NIU’s CEO Yan Li discusses the keys to NIU’s recent success as well as how the US trade war has NIU investigating manufacturing in Southeast Asia and North America.
We recently covered NIU’s Q1 2020 financial report, showing damage from the COVID-19 pandemic but a surprisingly quick path to recovery.
The company had sold over 1 million electric scooters by the end of 2019, putting it in a strong position pre-pandemic.
As Yan explained:
As we are in a mobility industry, the COVID19 issue has of course impacted our operations in Q1. But we actually maintained really healthy margins in Q1 with a 23% growth margin. We actually expect to start recovering in Q2 with our revenue expected to grow by double digits year over year as reported.
A major factor in that quick recovery has been China’s turnaround following the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has enabled a strong return to sales in NIU’s largest market.
As Yan continued:
We actually seeing a very strong demand rebound in China in Q2. In China we have about 1,000 stores with all of them are open for business from April and they are observing a strong track in sales demand.
On top of that our sales in China have also experienced the recent phenomenon of the live-streaming sales platform in China. We launched two new products via live-streaming in May and June that attracted more than 7 Million views and more than 50,000 pre-sales of scooters, accessories and services.
But China isn’t solely responsible for NIU’s turnaround.
Yan also credits the global market for NIU’s recent success.
NIU operates in 42 countries around the world and is quickly adding more.
Our international sales represent around 15% of our total revenue in 2019. The international markets are recovering slower than China as our sales network in most international markets only resumed sales in May. But we are very excited to see this acceleration of transition from public transportation to individual mobility within the cities in the US and Europe.
We are continuously committed in the global market. Even during the pandemic we opened flagship stores in Rome, Lisbon and Antwerp, and we have more flagship stores opening across Europe in the next few weeks.
Yan also attributes a portion of NIU’s success to its partnership with scooter-sharing operations.
These operators maintain large fleets of electric scooters which commuters can rent by the minute instead of investing in ownership of an electric scooter.
Yan explained the importance of these ridesharing operators in NIU’s success, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their own operations and demand:
And lastly we also support 19 sharing operators across 14 countries. In recent weeks as cities have opened up, all of our ridesharing operators are seeing strong growth in ridership. For example, our sharing partner Revel in the US has seen a huge surge of demand in New York City. I have friends in New York City who are using Revel on a daily basis now.
NIU was already experiencing large growth before the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 has further impacted the company’s trajectory.
Yan explained how these effects are being felt at NIU and in the larger mobility industry:
First of all, the urban mobility market is always a necessity. People always need to go to work, to commute, to go grocery shopping, and the industry outlook has already been very bright.
We are currently seeing three trends in this industry. The first is a shift from cars or public transportation to individual commuting devices like our electric scooter and moped vehicles or our electric bicycles, through either an ownership model or a sharing model, mainly because these devices are both more space efficient and more time efficient. And this shift was already happening before the pandemic, but it has accelerated because of the COVID19 health considerations as well.
Secondly, we’re seeing a shift in this industry in terms of energy technology from petrol fuel to electric vehicles. And in China we are seeing a shift in electric vehicles from lead acid battery technology to lithium-ion battery technology.
And this trend actually enables the third trend, which is a shift from ‘dumb’, unconnected devices to smart, connected solutions. So for example, our scooter isn’t just a scooter, it’s a scooter with a brain, a scooter that networks with a cloud of scooters to gather more data that enables better product development and better user experience.
Lastly, Yan spoke about NIU’s growth in the US during the trade war between the US and China, and how it could lead to new manufacturing locations for NIU:
The tariffs in the US have created some impact for us. Last year, our sales in the US market were fairly small compared to the global market. But we do have high expectations for the US market. We’re seeing a huge demand from the sharing model and we’re also seeing a huge demand from the individual ownership model.
So at this point we’re actually exploring options for global manufacturing to enable us to enter the US with reduced tariff. We’re looking at locations in Southeast Asia as well as locations in Mexico and potentially in the US as well.
Could a Chinese electric scooter company help create US manufacturing jobs?
It’s probably a bit too soon to speculate, but with over 1 million NIU electric scooters sold and demand rising in the US, it might be more realistic than you think.
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