China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd.’s expansive pop-up showroom sits at the heart of Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center. With nine models on display, it’s hard to miss. The electric car upstart has one of the biggest booths at China’s 2021 Auto Show, which started Monday, opposite storied German automaker BMW AG. Yet its bold presence belies an uncomfortable truth — Evergrande hasn’t sold a single car under its own brand.
China’s largest property developer has an array of investments outside of real estate, from soccer clubs to retirement villages. But it’s the recent entry into electric cars that’s captured investors’ imaginations. Shareholders have pushed Evergrande NEV’s Hong Kong-listed stock up more than 1,000% over the past 12 months, allowing it to raise billions of dollars in fresh capital. It now has a market value of $87 billion, greater than Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.
Such exuberance over an automaker that has repeatedly pushed back forecasts for when it will mass produce a car is emblematic of the froth that has been building in EVs over the past year, with investors plowing money into a rally that briefly made Elon Musk the world’s richest person and has some concerned about a bubble. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in China, home to the world’s biggest market for new energy cars, where a mind-boggling 400 EV manufacturers now jostle for consumers’ attention, led by a cabal of startups valued more than established auto players but which have yet to turn a profit.