The story of the new power of car building is hard to tell


Zhang Yahui

The cold launch of MEGA not only poured cold water on the ideal of smooth sailing in the past year, but also made all the new forces of car manufacturing deeply realize that the era of easily selling cars by "telling stories" has gone forever.



From MEGA to Xiaomi to be ridiculed


At last year's Guangzhou Auto Show, the Ideal MEGA made its public debut, and its stunning performance instantly ignited the entire car market. At that time, Li Xiang, the founder of Ideal Car, expressed confidence that the ideal MEGA was confident of becoming the first model with sales of more than 500,000 yuan. In order to further create momentum, Ideal car officially released the "One article to understand the design story of the ideal MEGA", through the introduction of the styling design team, to the public in-depth show the design concept and story behind the ideal MEGA.


Although the ideal aspect has been heavily promoted since before the launch, the design concept, design details, design style of MEGA is packaged into a fantasy and advanced story. However, today's consumers have become more rational and prudent after experiencing all kinds of fancy publicity from car companies. As the consumer Mr. Wang said: "I don't care how much thought he put into the design behind it, the factors that affect my car purchase are only price and practicality." Even if it blows the sky, consumers have a scale in their hearts to judge whether this pure electric MPV is worth 600,000 yuan."


Xiaomi faces a similar situation. Three years ago, millet official publicity car conference, Lei Jun affectionately said that this is the last time in his life to start a business, willing to put on all the reputation once again. At the end of last year, in Lei Jun announced the 1003 days of car manufacturing, millet car held a grand technical conference, Lei Jun detailed the configuration of millet SU7 and Max version, the technical indicators are dazzling. Xiaomi Auto is trying to further enhance its brand image through high-end products, after Lei Jun has repeatedly hinted that Xiaomi cars will be priced higher, but expensive. It is widely speculated that the starting price of Xiaomi cars may be compared to high-end models in the world.


At that time, Mi fans were enthusiastic and full of expectations for Xiaomi cars. Lei Jun also said that the rice fans have given great encouragement, and the car is also built to meet the wishes of rice fans. However, over time, the attitude of rice fans seems to have changed. Some rice fans joked: "99,000 yuan to make a friend", and some rice fans reminded Lei Jun not to leave the masses: "Rice fans are just getting old, not getting rich."


No one will pay for the car companies' dreams


Once upon a time, telling compelling stories was a compulsory course for new forces to enter the market. By portraying unique brand stories, sharing design ideas, and showcasing technological innovations, new brands have successfully shaped their brand image and attracted the attention of many consumers and markets. This has become an unspoken rule in the era of Internet car building.


When it comes to the "king of stories" of the car circle, Musk is undoubtedly the originator. Since the beginning of his business, he has aspired to revolutionize the automotive industry and disrupt the energy industry with electric vehicles. He continues to invest in research and development to improve battery technology, autonomous driving systems, and charging infrastructure. In addition, Musk has actively pursued personal interests, founding SpaceX to explore space, acquiring Twitter and, through Neuralink, attempting to build a brain-computer interface to usher in a new era between the human brain and computers.


Musk's legendary experience adds a unique charm to Tesla. Inspired by this, domestic new energy vehicle companies have also followed suit and began to weave their own "entrepreneurial legend". From Li Bin of NiO, Li Xiang of Ideal, He Xiaopeng of Xiaopeng, to Zhang Yong of Nezha, Shen Hui of Weima, and Ding Lei of Gaohe, these founders are deeply bound to their car brands. To some extent, the founder's personality, background, and vision all map onto the product. When consumers choose a car, they largely align with the founder's philosophy and pay for the story behind the brand.


For example, Li Xiang issued a letter to all employees at the beginning of the year, expressing his vision to become the world's leading artificial intelligence company by 2030. Nio is committed to creating a better travel experience for users and sustainable travel through innovative technologies and products. With the spirit of "exploration, freedom and creation", Gaohe Automobile pursues "want to go higher", aiming to become the highest positioning intelligent electric vehicle brand in China. Weima hopes to create an intelligent, connected and shared new energy vehicle to meet the individual needs of young consumers.


These stories are full of passion, innovation and a sense of the future, which once aroused widespread resonance and expectation. However, with the withdrawal of Weimar, high cooperation is in danger, and the ideal has suffered a "Waterloo", car companies have realized that it is difficult to impress consumers only by "telling stories".


For all their claims about how great their products are, consumers don't always pay. So, which link has gone wrong? Consumer Liu Xiao said that today's new energy vehicle market homogenization phenomenon is serious, from products to propaganda, as if from the same water factory. "Not 'high-end', 'smart' or 'personalized', all brands strive to rely on these words." These slogans sound attractive at first, but after all the car companies do so, there is only aesthetic fatigue. From a consumer perspective, it's hard to tell what the difference is. With the continuous emergence of new energy vehicle brands, what ultimately affects our car purchase decisions is cost performance and actual demand." This view represents the voice of a large number of consumers.


Without the "story", what does the car company say


The new energy vehicle market is showing signs of slowing down, with overseas market demand narrowing, multinational brands retreating, and the domestic market also declining. In this context, the once prevalent "storytelling" marketing techniques gradually become ineffective, and corporate financing is increasingly difficult. The new energy vehicle market has transitioned from the former savage growth stage to the formal competition period, the surviving brands are becoming more mature, the attractiveness of the story is weakening, and the competitive landscape has entered a new stage.


According to the "S curve" of the process of consumer acceptance of new things, when new technologies and new products reach a higher penetration rate, their diffusion rate will gradually slow down, and the growth curve will flatten out. The new energy vehicle market also follows this law, and the growth rate is gradually slowing down, while those "late followers" and "laggards" are still hesitant to choose new energy vehicles.


In addition to cost-effective considerations, the safety and after-sales issues of new energy vehicles have also become a key factor restricting consumer choice. Battery fires, driving range anxiety, OTA upgrades and other issues need to be resolved, which are important factors affecting consumers' car purchase decisions.


Cao Guangping, a partner of Coachman Consulting, pointed out that at present, most of China's new car-making forces are facing the impact of "subsidy decline, market price reduction" after experiencing the market baptism of "mass production and listing", and there are strong competitors such as Tesla and BYD outside, the internal profit model is not clear, and even the product listing positioning is embarrassing. It can be said that the new power car companies have entered the deep water area, and their real viability is being severely tested by the market.


For car companies, in order to continue to operate, they must show a new look in terms of strategy, products, technology, quality and service. Cao Guangping believes that the new energy vehicle companies that are out of the story need to work hard in many aspects. First of all, we must deeply explore the needs of users and meet the needs of different consumers for different models. Secondly, we should continue to develop and explore key components, strive to obtain technical progress in areas such as power batteries, and make breakthroughs in vehicle performance. In addition, it is necessary to ensure battery safety, develop low-cost recycling technology, and long life, fast charge, all-weather application of batteries, so as to improve the cost performance and applicability of pure electric vehicles.


Industry insiders pointed out that the new energy automobile industry has bid farewell to the era of brutal competition, and the current focus of car companies is no longer simply to sell cars, but how to better maintain the basic plate of consumers and achieve high-quality, sustainable and benign development. As Lu Fang, CEO of Lantu Automotive Technology Co., LTD., said, the development of the automotive industry needs to follow the long-term doctrine, and the process and quality of the products must stand the test of the market. Otherwise, it will not only damage the rights and interests of consumers, but also affect the overall development progress of China's automobile industry.


Originally published by China Automotive News, April 7, 2024