NIO goes beyond appealing to technology fanatics like Telsa’s cult, taking the automotive experience into its own unique culture – the NIO lifestyle. The lifestyle, currently only available in China, includes high tech vehicles with autonomous driving, NIO Houses, cafes, shared boardrooms, over-the-air updates, battery-as-service, games, clothing and cookies.
The women working at NIO are devoted to serving their users and believing in what they do. Auto Futures talks to four exceptional NIO women, from diverse backgrounds, from all over the world. They reveal why the NIO lifestyle is so appealing to them and their vision for automotive in the future.
JoAnn Yamani, Director of Communications
JoAnn Yamani is excited about NIO and its various enterprises. A fourth-generation Japanese American (Yonsei) from Ogden, Utah, Yamani went to Mills College and has a J.D. from Santa Clara University. She worked in congressional media relations and public affairs. Then she moved to public and corporate relations for tech companies in Silicon Valley.
“In America when people buy a car and they leave a showroom and that’s the experience,” says Yamani, “At NIO, we care about our users. It infuses into everything we do.”
She says she likes working at NIO because of the many talented people who are passionate about their users and the great technology. The NIO design team is in Munich. The research and engineering office is in San Jose. NIO headquarters is in Shanghai, China.
William Li (founder, chairman and CEO of NIO) has a strong understanding of what users want, says Yamani.
NIO in China has no car dealerships per se. Users can stop at NIO House with a cafe, a lending library, kids joy camp, and a conference room for 30 to 60 people and buy select NIO merchandise. Users apply points to buy NIO merchandise. Merchandise includes clothing, luggage, housewares, dishes and cookies (biscuits). There are close to 50 NIO houses in China, says Yamani.
According to the NIO Life Blog, NIO Life merchandise comes from 500 designers worldwide and has delivered over 2.8 million NIO Life items to users.
NIO owners can swap out batteries at 178 power swap stations that will expand to 500 this year. Vans will come to charge the vehicles. Users can purchase the battery pack in the cars with or without. If they do not buy the battery, they pay a monthly subscription fee for battery use and swapping.
Autonomous driving is very complex and the new NIO car the ET7 is fully autonomous. Beyond the vehicles themselves, the users are so thrilled with NIO they celebrate and participate in NIO Day, says Yamani.
“NIO Day was exciting. It was put together all by the users. There was an NIO band and an NIO choir that sounded really good,” says Yamani, who refers to users as a community.
The owners are diverse. Some are young. Some are old. They may buy an NIO model because it is new. They may buy one for safety. Or they may buy because their friends and family tell them to, she adds.
NIO has many talented women engineers from all over the world. The women all have interesting perspectives on working at NIO and the future of automotive.
Luna Chen, Senior Manager of Compute and Hardware Design, from Tianjin, China
Luna Chen has designed complex, high-speed digital boards incorporating leading-edge microprocessors, networking chipsets, and FPGA-based architectures. She previously worked for Cisco systems. She holds a Master’s of Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Appalachian State University with a BS (EE) from Fudan University.
Chen sees her job as another form of art. She says about her job: “Being a hardware engineer gives me the satisfaction of solving problems and building things, especially things that are different each time.”
She likes watching how autonomous driving evolves.
“My co-workers and I are making autonomous driving happen,” says Chen, “One day we won’t have to worry about being too old to drive.”
“It’s hard to predict how far and fast the automotive will become fully autonomous and who will be the most significant player. I hope and think NIO will be one of the players that leads the industry forward,” says Chen.
“I am excited to witness the automotive industry’s history, just like the internet wave in the last few decades.”
Imama Ali, Computer Vision and Machine Learning Engineer at NIO from Islamabad, Federal Area, Pakistan
Imama Ali has worked on developing computer applications for surveillance cameras, 3D facial recognition programs, and more.
Currently, she focuses on defender mode in NIO vehicles for physical security from break-ins and the display within the cockpit for NIO navigational systems.
She has a PhD in Image Processing from the University of Memphis. She speaks English, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
She says when she was growing up she was always good at Maths and Science, “I like to build and tinker with the way machines work.”
Now she likes making sense of images for automating given tasks.
“NIO values and vision are the most compelling. It feels great to work for such an organization,” says Ali.
She believes new technologies will make the car riding experience more enjoyable in the short-term. In the long-term, she expects it will become more affordable for people to experience new technologies.
Sapna Todwal, Senior Engineering Manager, from Nasik, Maharashtra, India
Sapna Todwal has experience in firmware, with a wide range of expertise from networking software to devices like phones, tablets, storage products. She holds a BE in Computers from Savitribai Phule Pune University.
“From a very young age, I was always interested in designing and writing,” says Todwal, “I was inspired by my dad. He is an engineer. He has his own manufacturing business.”
“During high school, I won a scholarship for a coding class programming in C,” says Todwal, “That’s when I started loving the writing and designing of software from scratch to run for useful purposes. It opened up a new area for me. Right from that moment, I decided I had to get into computer engineering.”
Todwal is inspired by people around her who are passionate about the product and about the technology.
“Fortunately, we have some great talent at NIO. We have a team that inspires me every day who are always thinking out of the box,” says Todwal.
She says you can see the automobile is going to be more and more software-centric. The hardware will be just something that could be easily switched.
“You could start with a certain set of hardware. Then you can keep on adding software after you sell the car,” says Todwal, “Of course, the basic safety standards have to be met at launch.”
“I don’t see companies launching a new car every year. What I do see is innovation in the software which can be changed and updated. I’m proud of our FOTA (Firmware-Over-the-Air) updates that avoid trips to the service centre reaching close to a 99% success rate by mid-2019,” says Todwal, who drives a Tesla.
“We can bring new features like in Tesla. I can see a new game coming up in the car every software update and my way of interacting with the car changes,” adds Todwal.
Currently, NIO electric vehicles are not available in the U.S.
“We are a global company and have always had plans to expand. We don’t have any solid plans to enter the United States at this time,” says Yamani.
Until NIO expands into other parts of the world, outsiders can drive the NIO EP9 racecar in the game Asphalt 9: Legend available for game devices, Apple, Android, Windows and Mac.