It’s easy to sour on equities like Nio (NYSE:NIO). The so-called Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) of China shot up more than 3,000% between March 2020 and January of this year. Investors were no doubt dreaming of mammoth gains in 2021 with a growth curve that would make them feel like Elon Musk.
Well, that hasn’t happened. NIO stock has fallen more than 40% from its high and is currently trading below $40.
Production problems have plagued plenty of electric vehicle companies thanks to the global shortage of semiconductor chips. There are also global shipping delays and, of course, continued tension between China and the West, particularly the U.S.
If you bought NIO stock at the beginning of the year, you’re sitting on a 19% loss heading into the final two months of 2021. And there’s little expectation that there will be great third-quarter numbers to pull the electric vehicle stock out of its slump when Nio reports in mid-November.
So, is it time to cut your losses and cash out? Or is now the time to double down and grab some more NIO stock at a discounted price?
The Case for Selling NIO Stock
It’s nice to think that the world may be emerging from the coronavirus pandemic (although I wouldn’t bet against another wave this winter). But even so, there are signs that our economic troubles aren’t in the rearview mirror yet.
China was the epicenter of the pandemic, and its economy was the first to be affected. Therefore, it was also the first to show signs of recovery. In fact, China has proven to be an effective bellwether for economic difficulties since Covid-19 because the trends there are running a few months ahead of the U.S.
Therefore, it’s concerning that China’s gross domestic product growth slowed substantially in the third quarter. Beijing says China’s economy grew 4.9% in Q3 after registering 7.9% growth in the second quarter.
Analysts told the South China Morning Post that the numbers could indicate more economic problems in the fourth quarter, including possible stagflation. If this comes to pass, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t have an impact on Chinese companies like Nio.
Another reason to be a Nio skeptic comes from InvestorPlace contributor Dana Blankenhorn. I’ve read plenty of Blankenhorn’s pieces and have come to appreciate his no-nonsense, straightforward analysis.
Blankenhorn makes the point that the Nio-Tesla comparison is way off. While Tesla has been a household name and investor darling for years, Nio isn’t anywhere near that in China. Blankenhorn goes on to say:
Nio is a niche product, even within China. It is not one of the country’s 15 biggest selling electrics. Tesla holds second and third place in that list. BYD Company Limited (OTCMKTS:BYDDF), however, holds four of the 15 places with cars like the BYD Han, a mid-sized sedan.
If anything, Blankenhorn says BYD is closer to being the Tesla of China than Nio.
The Case for Buying NIO Stock
The thing that really makes Nio stand out is its battery-swapping service. Instead of having electric vehicles plug in to recharge, Nio’s battery as a service (BaaS) strategy allows drivers to simply pull into a battery-swapping station and exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one in less than five minutes.
Nio has more than 500 battery-swapping stations in China and plans to install its first soon in Norway, where the company just expanded.
In October, Nio reported that it has completed more than 4 million battery swaps since the first station was opened in 2018. The company said it plans to be operating 700 battery-swapping stations by the end of the year and 4,000 by the end of 2025.
The BaaS program is a huge selling point for Nio. The company says it makes the cost of an electric car $10,000 cheaper. Beijing also is generous with subsidies for Nio because of its battery-swapping service.
Nio is the clear leader in BaaS technology for now, but I expect the competition will be more intense in the future.
In the meantime, Nio is ramping up production of its EVs. On Oct. 1, the company announced that it delivered 10,628 vehicles in September, representing a 125.7% year-over-year increase. In total, the company has delivered 142,036 vehicles as of Sept. 30.
Even though I’m more skeptical than I was a year ago, I still like NIO stock. The company may not be the Tesla of China. But there’s nothing wrong with being the Nio of China, particularly when the company is the industry leader in the battery-swapping space.
Investors in NIO stock should have a long-term outlook. Just make sure that you’re happy with how the company is ramping up production. As long as Nio is a leader in BaaS technology, it’s an appealing way to invest in EVs.
On the date of publication, Patrick Sanders did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Patrick Sanders is a freelance writer and editor in Maryland, and from 2015 to 2019 was head of the investment advice section at U.S. News & World Report. Follow him on Twitter at @1patricksanders.