NIO is one of the very many electric car "startups" in China.
The most prominent Chinese automaker is Geely, which owns Volvo Cars, not to be confused with "Volvo", which makes trucks, buses and is a completely different company. That's a substantial and profitable operation, which just opened its first factory in the U.S. this summer--in South Carolina.
The one other Chinese automaker that owns a significant U.S. factory is SF Motors, which counts as one of its executives Martin Eberhard. Yes, THAT Martin Eberhard -- the guy who co-founded Tesla, took on Elon Musk as an investor, and was booted out.
SF Motors has shown its cars, but hasn't begun meaningful production, yet.
There are other Chinese-backed or Chinese-based in a variety of ways, electric car startups with some prominence. Byton is one of them, and arguably Faraday Future and Lucid Motors are contenders. However, in the top tier, aside from Geely and SF Motors, NIO is now of particular interest thanks to its hot-off-the-press IPO filing.
From where did NIO get its engineers? Just go to LinkedIn and search for "NIO Tesla" and you will see page after page of people who left Tesla in order to join NIO. Most of them seem to be engineers. At least nine former Tesla engineers joined NIO since April.
Perhaps that is not a huge surprise. NIO's Silicon Valley offices are located next door to Cisco in California. That's a bicycle ride away from Tesla's Fremont factory, and a short drive from Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto.
NIO started selling its NS8 all-electric SUV in China on June 28.
As of July 31, NIO had "unfulfilled reservations for 4,989 units of this car, for which non-refundable deposits had been made."
- Martin Cassidy contributed to this article.