When did you start paying attention to NIO? To be precise, since I am working in the automotive industry, I know NIO way ahead of ordinary consumers; but I start to actively follow on NIO’s every move beginning in December of 2019.
Last December 12, NIO declared that their flagship model, the ES8, has successfully achieving the delivery of 20,000 units in only one and a half years since the first delivery in May 31, 2018. Following on, on December 18, the company again made an auspicious announcement – the successful delivery of 30,000 units of two new energy SUV models, the ES6 and ES8. It is worthy to note that NIO ES6 has not even started the first round of delivery until June 2019.
In just one week in December of last year, NIO experienced two important phases, we can obviously see that NIO stepped up in 2019; R&D, production, sales, delivery – the rhythm and flow of the company’s operations are improving. the transcripts from NIO are really good, and from this time on, I closely followed NIO’s every move.
At present, the monthly sales of NIO ES6 almost matches the total number of other EV models such as the WM EX5, Xpeng G3, NETA, and SITECH DEV1. This is the true strength of “leading brother”. However, I think there is a deeper reason behind the simultaneous increase in sales and delivery of the company’s vehicles; it is NIO’s “faith in quality” that has truly won the trust of its consumers.
It was two years ago when Li Bin invited Shen Feng to join the company. Since then, NIO’s rigorous quality system was, so to speak, built with hands, feet, bricks and wood.
Who is Shen Feng? He is a big name in Chinese automotive industry. He has held senior positions in Ford Motors and Volvo Cars China. He has been a master of Ford’s 6-Sigm black belt; Volvo Cars Polestar Global CTO and President; and Volvo China R&D Corporation President. He was the one responsible for 6-Sigma qulaity management at Ford’s, Geely and Volvo’s M & A, creation of international R & D centers, product development and mass production, supplier, management, new factory creation, and production.
On NIO’s quality, Shen Feng said that quality is the lifeline of a startup company and must be guaranteed by the system. He opines, “The construction of the system has no sedimentation, building a management system is one of the most important tasks.”
The company’s first product, NIO ES8, was created in a new manufacturing base jointly operated by JAC and NIO. The latter sets the quality standards for product operations while all production lines including stamping, welding, painting, and final assembly workshops are developed in accordance to VDA (German Automotive Industry Association) standards.
Shen Feng divides Weila’s quality system into 12 modules which covers every link from product development to user delivery and actual use. These are: enterprise quality, manufacturing quality, mass production quality, after-sales quality, design quality, vehicle engineering quality, XPT quality, electric power engineering quality, power management quality, and supplier management quality, logistics quality and software quality.
Professional media invited by NIO to visit its manufacturing plants witness a clean, quiet, and odor-free production workshop interspersed with eye-catching posters espousing “Quality is faith”, “Quality is life, quality is in my heart”.
In the body-in-white inspection room, NIO uses 7 connection technologies. These are hot-melt self-tapping riveting, self-piercing riveting, cold metal transition arc welding, aluminum spot welding, structural glue, laser welding, and high-strength extraction. To ensure quality, core pulls are used to connect the body.
The attention to quality is stringent. Shen Feng says that inspection workers will disassemble and inspect four body-in-whites monthly at random. The inspection team will dissect the body parts that are spot-check, examining the end faces and connection points after cutting, measures to further improve product quality.
Quality in Design
“Quality is designed, not tested or manufactured.” In this statement, Shen Feng expressed his belief that although quality level can be controlled in manufacturing, inspection and other links, quality can fundamentally be controlled through design. And this focus on quality starts with its components supplier. The NIO quality team also participates in its supplier’s advanced product quality planning processes since the early identification and prevention of risks are the means to ensure the safety and robustness of the products in all aspects.
Quick Feedback is Key
NIO built two communication platforms to differentiate itself from traditional car companies: the NOMIDebug and NIOAPP. In the process, this deepened the user feedback experience. Shen Feng says the user feedback can reach the system backend within 1 second; and the customer service team will reply within 12 hours. That means that NIO need only some 45 days to solve the quality problems as against traditional car companies which require 90 days on average. For short-term measures, NIO takes only 5 days compared to the 10 required by traditional car companies. A sample scenario is a user’s feedback through NOMI stating that automatic parking does not work without a seatbelt. The NIO team responded in only 2 hours.
The Debug system has been in operations for over a year now. It has received more than 70,000 suggestions and feedback at a rate of 100-200 daily. This user-facing feedback system has forced NIO to evolve quickly. Traditional car companies put the life cycle of a new car at 7 years, with a mid-range model launched after 3-4 years. This means users have complaints and quality problems after 3-4 years. In contrast, NIO is continuously evolving, every month, every week, every day. As an example, a car owner complained that his child likes to tinker with the air conditioning buttons and proposed an air conditioner lock. NIO took this to heart and introduced the feature. NIO’s ability to quickly upgrade and iterate as well as its responsive service are very reassuring to consumers.
Pious, Dedicated Faith
It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that in the 2019 China New Energy Vehicle Experience Study, NIO was awarded the top honor for quality by J.D. Power, a well-known automobile research organization. The study focused on the quality problems of new energy vehicles with a two to six months vehicle life period as well as user satisfaction in the pre-sales, sales, and product use processes. The study had 2,770 respondents and covered 21 brands, 41 models, and 30 provinces.
In conclusion, the NIO ES8 ranked first among medium and large-sized pure electric models in Chinese EV startups. It topped even BMW and a number of traditional car companies and led the field by a large margin. After a spontaneous combustion accident, the ES8 was quickly recalled. In the stringent J.D. Power quality selection and tests, it garnered the top spot. These prove beyond a doubt, the power of NIO’s extremely dedicated “faith in quality”.
Guest posted by Frank, a veteran in Chinese auto industry