/Chinese electric car start-ups Nio and Xpeng defy first quarter weakness with March surprise

Chinese electric car start-ups Nio and Xpeng defy first quarter weakness with March surprise

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Xpeng CEO He Xiaopeng stands next to the company’s P7 electric sedan as he addresses media at the 2020 Beijing auto show.
Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

BEIJING — Two of China’s U.S.-listed electric car start-ups beat market expectations in their March deliveries, with both companies setting quarterly records.

Xpeng said Thursday it delivered 5,102 cars in March, beating implied deliveries of 4,262 cars for that month. The company delivered a total of 13,340 vehicles in the first quarter, topping its guidance of 12,500 for the period.

Nio announced deliveries of 7,257 vehicles in March, marking 20,060 cars for the first three months of the year — the most for any quarter, according to the company.

That falls within Nio’s original first quarter guidance of 20,000 to 20,500 vehicles. Nio had lowered the forecast last week to 19,500 cars after announcing a five-day factory closure due to a shortage in semiconductors.

Shares of both companies rose more than 1% during Thursday’s trading session in New York. The stocks remain in negative territory for the year so far, after surging in 2020.

Xpeng’s March deliveries were roughly split between the company’s P7 sedan and G3 SUV. Among Nio’s three models — all SUVs — the company said its five-seat ES6 saw the most demand with more than 3,000 deliveries last month.

The delivery beat is “a very positive indicator of the China EV market growth trajectory for the rest of the year,” Wedbush analysts Dan Ives and Strecker Backe wrote. They also predict March was a good month for Tesla in China, and expect electric vehicle stocks will climb 30% to 40% higher this year.

BYD’s stellar sales in March

However, the start-ups’ record quarterly deliveries still pale in comparison with Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer BYD.

For the company’s Han model alone — which comes in both hybrid and pure-electric versions — sales topped 10,000 units in March, BYD management told Citi analysts in a call Tuesday. BYD’s total sales of new energy vehicles hit 23,000 units last month, according to Citi.

BYD expects that in December, it can reach sales of 30,000 cars in just the battery-powered category, Citi said.

Another U.S.-listed Chinese electric car start-up, Li Auto, had not released first quarter figures as of Friday morning Beijing time.

The company forecast in February it would deliver between 10,500 and 11,500 cars in the first quarter, or fewer than 4,000 vehicles a month. Li Auto’s only model on the market is an SUV that comes with a fuel tank for charging the battery.

Li Auto shares rose 1% Thursday and are down about 12% year-to-date.

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