Stock Market

Much as I anticipated, the January rally for Nio (NYSE:NIO) stock has given way to a pullback so far in February. Since the start of the month, NIO stock has fallen by back around 10%. Largely, due to the China-based electric vehicle (or EV) maker’s latest delivery numbers, which were underwhelming.

Sure, it was not a complete shocker that Nio’s January delivery figures were weak compared to a year ago, and especially compared to a month ago. Since December, there have been some warnings of near-term sales weakness, driven by several factors.

But while shares have only sold off modestly on the heels of this news, as some investors believe that Nio’s prospects will improve during the second half of 2023, I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Further disappointment may lie ahead.

With this, let’s dive in, and see why “buying the dip” here is not the best move.

NIO Nio $10.67

NIO Stock and the Latest Delivery Numbers

On Feb. 1, Nio released its monthly delivery update for January 2023, reporting a total of 8,506 vehicle deliveries. Compared to delivery numbers in January 2022 (9,652) and December 2022 (15,815), these latest numbers represent an 11.9% year-over-year drop, and a 46.2% drop on a sequential (or month-over-month) basis.

These underwhelming numbers have led some to bail on NIO stock, but others are holding tight on their positions. Mostly, on the view that this sales slump was expected, and will be temporary in nature. Several developments have indicated sales weakness during the first half of 2023.

For instance, Nio’s CEO, William Li, back in December warned of “sales challenges,” citing issues such as the phasing out of China’s EV subsidies. Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) slashing of its vehicle prices by as much as 24% in China has also likely had a near-term impact on demand.

With Nio launching new vehicle models, and with forecasts calling for China’s post-pandemic recovery expected to happen faster and sooner than expected, those bullish on the stock believe that the company’s results will kick it back into high gear a few months from now. However, it’s questionable whether this will happen.

Why Challenges May Persist Throughout the Year

Much like the impact of the January update, delivery updates in the winter and spring may only moderately affect the performance of NIO stock. However, in the months ahead, more signs may emerge that the much-expected growth re-acceleration will not take shape in the latter half of 2023.

For instance, as I’ve noted previously, it’s possible that investors are underestimating the impact the phasing out of subsidies will have on Chinese EV demand. Even a rapid rebound for the overall Chinese economy may prove insufficient to gin up demand, as Nio ramps up production.

As InvestorPlace’s Joel Baglole recently argued, if demand remains weak, domestic Chinese EV makers like Nio may begin to implement their own vehicle price cuts as their U.S.-based counterparts have done. While this could boost delivery numbers, investors could react negatively to the prospect of a Chinese EV price war.

Unlike Tesla, which may have more wiggle room to slash prices (although I have my doubts), the negative impact of price cuts Nio’s margin could far outweigh the positive impact on sales. The sell-side is expecting Nio to become profitable by 2024, but a price war could potentially further extend this timeline.

Bottom Line

Besides the risk of further disappointment with demand in its home market, future news with its efforts to expand globally could disappoint as well. Much of Nio’s appeal as a possible “Tesla killer” hinges on its ability to expand beyond China, first in Europe, then possibly in North America.

Although Carlos Tavares, CEO of European automaker Stellantis (NYSE:STLA), believes Chinese EV makers have the potential to beat European EV makers on their home turf, this may apply mainly to mass-market EV makers.

Nio may have a harder time competing with Tesla and incumbent automakers in Europe’s mass-affluent passenger vehicle market. Failure in Europe may fully put to rest the idea of Nio becoming a global EV brand.

As the recent delivery disappointment may be more than just a short-term hiccup, continue to steer clear of NIO stock.

NIO stock earns a D rating in Portfolio Grader.

On the date of publication, neither Louis Navellier nor the InvestorPlace Research Staff member primarily responsible for this article held (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.

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