BEIJING -- China's electric-car makers are moving into Europe, hoping to catch traditional automakers by surprise and seize a slice of a market in the grip of the region's drive towards zero emissions.
Nio launched its ES8 electric SUV in Oslo on Thursday -- the first foray outside China for a company that is virtually unheard of in Europe even though it's valued at about $57 billion.
Other brands unfamiliar to many Europeans that have started selling or plan to sell cars in Europe include Aiways, BYD's Tang, SAIC's MG, Dongfeng's Voyah, and Great Wall's Ora.
Europe, a crowded, competitive car market dominated by established brands, has proved elusive for Chinese automakers in the past. They made strategic slips and also contended with a perception that China, long associated with cheap mass-production, could not compete on quality.
Indeed, Nio CEO William Li told Reuters he foresees a long road to success in a mature market where it is "very difficult to be successful."
Chinese automakers may need up to a decade to "gain a firm foothold" in Europe, the billionaire entrepreneur said -- a forecast echoed by He Xiaopeng, CEO of EV maker Xpeng who told Reuters his company needs 10 years "to lay a good foundation" in the market.
These new players, many of which have only ever made EVs, believe they have a window of opportunity to finally crack the lucrative market.
While EV sales in the European Union more than doubled last year and jumped 130 percent in the first half of this year, traditional manufacturers are still gradually shifting their large vehicle ranges over to electric and have yet to flood the market with models.