What a difference a year makes.

After running dangerously low in cash at the start of 2020, Chinese electric-vehicle manufacturer Nio was thrown a lifeline by a consortium of Chinese state-owned enterprises and has since followed up with the reveal of its ET7 Tesla Model S rival, as well as passing the milestone of 100,000 vehicles on the road.

Nio's vehicles are already popular alternatives to models from Tesla in the Chinese market. Now the company is in the early stages of launching a mass-market brand to challenge more affordable EVs soon to come from Toyota and Volkswagen.

“The relationship between Nio and our new mass-market brand will be like that of Audi-Volkswagen and Lexus-Toyota,” William Li, Nio's CEO and founder, said in an interview with Reuters published last week.

Nio CEO and founder William Li with the 2022 ET7

Nio CEO and founder William Li with the 2022 ET7

Li didn't mention specific price targets but said he wanted to undercut Tesla's prices while providing better product and service. The most affordable Nio at present starts at about 300,000 yuan (approximately $46,290). One strategy Nio is likely to employ for its new brand to reduce prices is offer batteries via a subscription, which the company is already doing.

It's still early days, though. According to Li, the company has only made the initial step of forming a core team to work on developing the new brand.

Nio's current lineup consists of the ES6 and EC6 small crossovers and ES8 mid-size crossover. The ET7 mid-size sedan unveiled in January is due to start deliveries in early 2022. The company currently sells vehicles in China only but plans to start sales in Norway later this year.

The company recorded approximately 42,000 deliveries for the first half of 2021, which is up almost 200% on the same period from a year ago.