Right now, NIO is only selling its five-seater ES6 SUV to its home base: China. But it turns out that one has been spotted in South Bay, an area hear San Jose, California, without camouflage.
Richard Chen posted the moment a friend captured on Twitter via three photos—and, interestingly, someone in the comments claimed to have seen a gray version on the streets as well.
NIO does have a North American base located in San Jose, California, but it’s a little surprising to see one of its cars actually tooling around on the road because no one has really pegged the company as being close to American distribution. In fact, NIO has seemed to be existing fairly tenuously since 2019, when it laid off a bunch of employees at the American facility. It seemed to be hemorrhaging money in 2020 (to the point where folks were giving it a year before it folded), and it hasn’t fared much better this year, either.
We haven’t talked all that much about the NIO ES6 here on Jalopnik, mainly because it’s a product from a startup that isn’t going to be available in the United States and because the company itself has always seemed on the brink of disaster. But it does have some impressive-sounding specs. When it was announced, the five-seater was NIO’s second SUV (smaller than its ES8) and was priced at 358,000 RMB, or the equivalent of about $51,000. It claims a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds. It also claims to have a 379 mile (610 km) range—although that’s evaluated by NEDC, not EPA standards, and the NEDC is... fairly lax.
But it did look to be a serious competitor to the Tesla Model Y. The ES6 emulated the large touchscreen included in Tesla’s cars, as well as a suite of driver-assistance features. But it did come with some unique features, like the NOMI system, which was billed as in-car artificial intelligence. Basically, it would recognize voice commands but is purported to make your driving experience more enjoyable. It looks kind of cute, so I could see it.
So, it’s difficult to predict exactly what the game plan is here with the NIO ES6. Is the EV company soldiering through its darkest days, spurred on by big dreams of American distribution? Is someone just taking the cars for a last joy ride? Only time will tell.
Update April 4, 2021 6:55 PM ET: We learned after posting that the South Bay in question is a local name for a specific area near San Jose, not the county in Los Angeles, and have updated the story and title to reflect that.