International expansion has been part of Niu’s business strategy since the company’s inception. The electric scooter and micromobility startup currently has 40 distributors overseas, covering over 50 countries in Asia, Europe, the US, Latin America, and Oceania.
Niu Technologies was founded in 2014 in Beijing and sold its first e-scooter in China in 2015. The company went public on the Nasdaq exchange in September 2018. Since then, it has reported double-digit growth in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Despite the challenges brought by COVID-19 with its impact on international logistics, Niu delivered strong Q3 performance this year, with sales volume up by 58.3% year-on-year.
In Europe, Niu shipped its first vehicle to Germany in Q4 of 2016, and its business snowballed from there to reach 23 other countries. Niu sold almost 5,000 e-scooters in overseas markets during the last quarter, an increase of 11.2% YoY. However, the company holds bigger ambitions for its international markets, especially Europe, according to Joseph Constanty, director of international strategy and corporate development at Niu.
KrASIA recently spoke with Constanty to learn more about Niu’s international strategy in Europe and other markets.
The following interview has been consolidated and edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): With operations on five continents, how important is international business to Niu?
Joseph Constanty (JC): The international market is a key piece for our long-term growth, especially as we diversify our product range beyond mopeds, which most people know as electric scooters, into electric kick scooters and electric bicycles to fit different markets around the world. Mopeds are not a one-size-fits-all solution, so our international strategy is about choosing the type of modality that fits the marketplace.
Kr: Which strategies does Niu follow to expand in Europe?
JC: We work with exclusive distributors in each country for our mopeds, and we partner with multiple distributors for kick scooters and electric bicycles. That strategy has been working very well over the past six years. The most promising markets are Italy, Germany, France, and Spain. In Northern Europe, we have the Netherlands in the moped space.
Initially, there was some hesitation as other electric mopeds from Asia (shipped from around 2010 or 2011) left a bad taste in the mouth of many customers, retailers, and dealers. Yet, we proved that you could get a high-quality e-moped from Asia.
Kr: The European Commission has been promoting the adoption of electric and hybrid two-wheelers to curb harmful emissions from fuel-based vehicles. How is Niu taking advantage of this opportunity?
JC: We offer one of the most affordable lines of electric scooters, kick scooters, and e-bicycles, but two-wheeler EVs are still more expensive than the petrol competition.
However, some policies have been put forward by governments at state and city levels that allow mopeds to compete head to head with petrol vehicles for the first time. In Italy, for example, there’s an eco-bonus for two-wheeler EVs, which gives buyers a 30% discount when they purchase an e-scooter. Similar policies have been enacted in Spain and France. Also, the cost of registering an EV in most European countries is much lower compared to petrol two-wheelers.
There’s great potential. It is just going to take a few years to fully convert subsidies and policies to encourage customers to acquire EVs.
Kr: With micromobility sharing models going mainstream worldwide, what is Niu doing to gain a slice of this market?
JC: We’ve been providing our products to sharing operators around the world since 2017. We started very early. We build our vehicles to be ready out of the box for sharing operators, making it incredibly convenient for them.
We support companies like Lime, Revel, and Cabify, but the list goes on as we partner with more than 20 operators across five continents. This is a very interesting space for us because there’s a large customer base that doesn’t want to own a vehicle, and we need to be sure that we can support sharing operators offering services to those customers.
Kr: After launching the first Niu electric kick scooter in April, how important will this segment become for the company’s international plans?
JC: Electric kick scooters will be a key piece of our strategy, especially in western markets. This segment is growing quite fast across Europe and the United States, with more than 2 million units being sold every year in Europe. There’s an immense opportunity to tap into this user base, which is different than mopeds customers, and it’s all about figuring out the right product-market fit.
The Niu KQi3 is our first product in this category. It’s more of a premium model, but we will launch additional models over the next couple of months that fit into a lower price point, which is really the core of European sales. The typical price point for most kick scooter sales is EUR 300 to EUR 500—that’s the price target we are aiming for in our upcoming products.
Kr: How has the recent increase in shipping costs affected Niu’s business in Europe and the US?
JC: The short answer is that it is not decreasing demand for our products, but it is slowing down the speed at which we can get products into the market. With increasing shipping costs, vehicles have become more expensive in certain markets, making buying decisions slightly different for certain people. However, we expect prices to normalize in the next six to eight months.
This interview was conducted on September 30, 2021.