Against All Odds: Audi Wins in Court Over NIO's "Too-Similar" ES6, ES8 Model Names

Audi defeats NIO in court 6 photos
Photo: Audi, NIO
Audi S6NIO ES6Audi S8NIO ES8Audi names vs NIO's names
The European auto industry is struggling to make the transition to zero-emissions vehicles, while a flock of Chinese carmakers is already invading UE’s markets with more affordable electric cars. It’s a silent war out there and every part is using any weapon available.
NIO is a bold carmaker, that’s for sure. They succeeded where Renault failed a decade ago: the swap-batteries idea for electric cars. The French carmaker was truly a pioneer in 2009 when it launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show the electric version of the Megane Sedan.

The Renault Fluence Z.E. was the first mass-production EV fitted with a battery swapping technology, for which it partnered with Israeli start-up Better Place. The problem was the two partners underestimated the cost of a battery-swapping network.

In 2013, Better Place filed for bankruptcy. On top of that, EV fans were complaining about the “horrible” idea of renting the battery. There were only a few who understood the huge advantages of not having to pay for the most expensive part of an EV.

Years later, Taiwanese Gogoro became the benchmark of battery-swapping for scooters, and in 2018 Chinese carmaker NIO opened its first battery-swap station in China – the Power Swap Station. By the end of 2022, they already had almost 1,300 stations in China.

In 2022 NIO started to install battery-swap stations in Europe, the first ten in Norway, Germany, and Netherlands. They even manufacture locally these stations, in Hungary. By 2025, the Chinese intend to have a network of over 4,000 stations, with a number of 1,000 outside China.

They proved it is a workable solution – up to this point the company completed more than 14 million battery swaps. The swapping process takes around five minutes. Or better put ONLY five minutes. Which is the closest to how long it takes to fill up an ICE car’s tank.

In short, NIO is very successful. And this is a headache for European EV makers, especially those from Germany. Back in 2021, Audi found a weak spot in NIO’s shiny armor: the names of a couple of its cars. And Audi sued NIO over the protection of its S6 and S8 model names.

They sound too similar to NIO’s ES6 and ES8, so it seems a legit action. Well, in fact, no one thought Audi could win this case because the differences between the types are huge: Audi’s S6 and S8 are the high-performance variants of its limos A6 and A8, while ES6 and ES8 are simply SUVs.

Their design is also too different for someone to mistake a German diesel sedan for a Chinese electric SUV. Still, the court in Munich established that the letter “E” was not enough to distinguish a difference. In fact, prospective buyers may think ES6 and ES8 are new electric variants of the sport limousines.

NIO is prohibited from advertising ES6 and ES8 in Germany, facing a penalty of €250,000 ($270,000) or even a six months prison for NIO Germany’s managing director. It’s unclear if NIO will appeal the decision, after it changed the ES7 name to EL7 back in October 2022. We still have to see if they will also change the ES8 name.

NIO ES6 is a 5-seat mid-size luxury SUV, with a starting price in Europe of €60,450 ($65,000). NIO ES8 is a 6 or 7-seat flagship full-size SUV and it costs less than 60,000 euros (less than $65,000) in Norway. Of course, you must add to these values the cost of battery leasing.

NIO ES6 rivals the Audi Q4 e-tron compact EV SUV, while NIO ES8 is larger than the Audi Q8 e-tron (which in fact is sort of a facelift of the previous Audi e-tron). In other words, NIO’s electric SUVs are a very good match to Audi’s electric SUVs.

This is the real problem that the German carmaker will have to deal with when NIO brings these two cars to the German market. We’ll keep an eye on this battle.
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About the author: Oraan Marc
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After graduating college with an automotive degree, Oraan went for a journalism career. 15 years went by and another switch turned him from a petrolhead into an electrohead, so watch his profile for insight into green tech, EVs of all kinds and alternative propulsion systems.
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