Jesús Bautista, NIU’s Project Manager for Latin America, conducted an interview for Portal Movilidad regarding the latest developments of NIU in the region. He shares new launches and raised the need to move forward with new regulations for two-wheeler electric vehicles.
When did the brand arrive to Latin America? Which countries do you operate in?
NIU arrived in Latin America in 2018 at Santiago and then expanded to Mexico. In 2019, we launched in Colombia and Argentina.
Currently, we are in opening processes for Panama and the Dominican Republic. In addition, we have established contacts with potential partners in some regional countries. We hope to be in more Latin American countries as we progress in 2020.
What manufacturing capacity does NIU have?
In December 2019, NIU inaugurated a second factory with a research and development center in Changzhou, China. The expanded annual production designed capacity is 1,080,000 vehicles per year.
Why does NIU have different brand names in Argentina?
In Argentina and Mexico, we call ourselves “NUUV” just as we own the brand in other Latin American markets. NUUV is an acronym meaning NEW URBAN UTILITY VEHICLE. We are working to fully own the NIU brand in Latin America due to licensing issues.
What is the performance expectation for NIU this year in Latin America?
The most important factor for the boost in sales for electric scooters are government tax incentives and local regulations. This makes the region a heterogeneous performance from a sales point of view. The countries with the highest sales are the ones supported by superior government policies. In 2020, NIU will try to increase sales by expanding into more markets in the region.
Which countries look most attractive?
The most interesting countries from a regulatory point of view are Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. In context of the potential for the entire region, Europe sold around 1 million motorbikes and scooters in 2019 whereas Brazil itself has a similar market size. We also have the example of Guatemala, which sold about 200,000 units last year, which is 20% of Europe’s market size.
In short, the potential is tremendous for the transition from petrol to electric. We are working to tailor products with the consumer needs of the region. The transition to electric and sustainable mobility should be the goal for manufacturers, regional and national governments, and consumers.
What kind of products are the most popular?
The popularity of the products depends a lot on the city in which people live. In flat cities like Santiago (Chile) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), our models MQi+, UQi and NQi have a positive reception. In Medellin (Colombia), a city with so many slopes, the NQi GT model is popular for its power.
Many people want a faster bike and do not want to try our products because of it. But NIU’s mission is to provide urbanity mobility solutions to mitigate the problem of urban congestion. In Bogota or Buenos Aires, during the hours of heavy traffic, you will not be able to drive faster than 45km/h. NIU wants to take on this challenge to inform consumers of the benefits of riding an electric scooter.
Do you expect increased demand for electric two-wheelers due to COVID 19?
In some countries, demand is expected to increase due to the growing panic of using public transport. We currently have products available for sale in 5 Latin American countries, which will increase over the next few months.
What regulations should be accelerated? Are the authorities working on the issue?
First, reduce the tariffs on electric bikes and lithium batteries for vehicles. You must bet there will be an adoption of more efficient and cleaner technologies. There are countries that charge zero tariffs, but others do not.
Second, eliminate or reduce governmental protectionist policies for petrol vehicles. Create incentives in these countries for the development of electric mobility. Give benefits for companies that drive electric mobility production in different Latin American countries. Incentivize battery producers to establish themselves in the region with state-of-the-art lithium technology. There are certain things that are not very clear and there are other problems such as inflation that place challenges on the region.
Third, give special privileges for users of electric vehicles. We have the case of the “peak and plate” in Bogota and “rodizio” in Sao Paulo that allows electric vehicles to roam around without restrictions. In the city of Cartagena in Colombia, only electric motorbikes can enter the walled city. These policies encourage consumers to purchase of electric vehicles.
Lastly, reduce the cost for obtaining license plate or patent for electric vehicles. Small things can add up. The positive measures of some countries need to be replicated by others. In addition, there should be adoption measures that encourage companies manufacture more electric motorbikes.
What is happening in the rest of the world?
In Belgium, the government gave a tax incentive for companies that allow their employees to ride an electric vehicle. In other parts of Europe, there are direct subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles. It is a difficult policy to adopt in Latin America. However, there are things that can be done to boost electricity mobility. It only takes political will. Colombia is a great example of this, and I hope that the countries of the region can learn from their success.
Are you working on new product releases?
Of course, NIU focuses on investment in R&D. As the leading smart electric mobility brand, it is an ongoing challenge to create the most advanced products. You must ensure the quality of your products never fall.
In the coming months, the NIU AERO EUB-01 Electric Bicycle and the MQi GT model will be on sale in Latin America. We are currently working on electric motorcycles and scooters designed for the masses of the Latin American market. At NIU, we are working to make electric mobility inclusive in all aspects.