There is perhaps nothing more emblematic of the American century than the automobile. Assembly lines rolled out millions of Fords, Chryslers, Chevys and Buicks and Made in Motor City-Detroit, Michigan-the capital of the global car industry. But in the race it's dominated by the auto industry of the 21st century, it is China that is vying for the pole position. It's the Chinese auto makers building the smart cars of tomorrow. And the energy is fueling them electric.
Today, U.S. Automakers are caught between the tariff-fueled trade war and the threats of cuts to electric car subsidies by the Trump administration. At the same time, Beijing is trying to win the race, ensuring that the future electric vehicles are made in China.
Michael Dunne: This year, China will build a million electric vehicles. That's nice scale. Michael Dunne grew up in Detroit, America's Motor City, then as a graduate student seeking adventure in the late 1
Michael Dunne: Everyone was poor, wearing greys and blues, riding bicycles. There were no cars.
Holly Williams: No cars?
Michael Dunne: No cars at all.
Dunne has watched China evolve from an isolated socialist state to a controlled capitalist powerhouse. And from He has been working as a car industry consultant in Asia for 30 years, including being a top executive at General Motors, and now Dunne is witnessing the Chinese government literally electrifying its burgeoning auto industry. 19659002] Holly Williams: What is the Chinese government doing to encourage people to buy e lectric vehicles?
Michael Dunne: Lots.
Holly Williams: It's Completely Created by the Government?
Michael Dunne: Totally created by the government. so you get up to $ 10,000 in rebates when you buy an electric car in several cities.
Holly Williams: What else does the government do?
Michael Dunne: In the city of Shanghai, for example– typically, you have to pay $ 12,000-13,000 to buy a license for the ability to buy a car. That– they waive that.
Holly Williams: They're free if you buy an electric vehicle.
Michael Dunne: Yes.
The result: an explosion of electric car makers and a hundred or so-eagerly feeding at the government trough. You can buy a Great Wall, or you can "Build Your Dreams" – a carmaker in which the American billionaire Warren Buffett was an early investor.
The last entrant on the crowded Chinese auto market is Nio.
Holly Williams: I heard you were the one to William Li in Chinese: Alright, alright.
Holly Williams: Maybe it was you. Call this the Tesla Killer?
William Li: Maybe. Holly Williams: It Does not Look Like a Killer
Holly Williams: Should We Take It For A Spin?
William Li: Yeah.
Holly Williams: What's the acceleration like is this?
Li claims his car goes from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds.
Williams and Li: 650 horsepower
And about 220 miles on a full charge.
Plus the car has a built-in personal assistant named "Nomi."
Holly Williams: Can we try Nomi?
William Li: Yeah sure
Who follows voice commands, as long as you speak Chinese.
Holly Williams in Chinese: Hi Nomi
William Li: Wow. Cool.
Holly Williams: She understands me.
William Li: Yeah, Sure.
Nomi is an avatar of artificial intelligence She will play you with a music playlist, adjust the temperature or snap a selfie on command. This is Chinese innovation – a great leap forward from the Chinese communist past.
Holly Williams: What would chair Mao Have you made a capitalist like you?
Li told us Chairman Mao would have said, "You're doing a good job."  Holly Williams: Really? He was a Communist. He hated capitalists like you!
"We are trying to make a better world," Li said.
In Chinese, the slogan of Li's car company is "blue sky coming." That's nicely with one of the reasons the Chinese government is pushing electric vehicles, as a way to reduce the country's drowning air pollution.
Holly Williams: You've been called Elon Musk of China. Is this fair?
William Li: I'm (LAUGHTER) younger than him.
Holly Williams: I've been talking to quite a lot of Chinese since I got here. And they say they really like Tesla.
William Li: "Yeah."
William Li: "It's not the same."
"The clothes may be"
Holly Williams: How are you gonna compete with that?
Li said it's like the clothes fashion models wear on the catwalk. beautiful, "he explained," but you can not wear them everyday. "
Holly Williams: So the Tesla is the super-model and you're the girl next door?
William Li: Yeah.
Autoanalyst Michael Dunne says the first challenge for Nio is to overcome China's reputation for building cheap, low-quality cars.
Holly Williams: Are they trying to knock Tesla out of China and– and take on Tesla perhaps globally?
Michael Dunne: There is plenty of market here to allow Tesla to play and Nio to play. What Nio needs to do is establish credibility with consumers and say: "We're Legit. We're a really good car."
In September, Nio became the first Chinese all-electric car company to debut on the New York Stock Exchange.
Holly Williams: This is a race car?
A Nio team has competed in the Formula E circuit for two seasons, including this race in Brooklyn, New York. Proof that electric cars are catching up with gas engines in power and speed.
But Nios are really designed for tech-savvy Chinese owners who link to their cars with a mobile app. Tap is a screen for repairs or maintenance.
It's the kind of futuristic scene that William Li has to offer, could only dream of as a child.
Holly Williams: Did anyone in your village have a car?
William Li: No.
Ironically, the founder of this high-tech electric car company grew up in a farming village with no electricity. 19659002] Holly Williams: So you learned about business, raising cows with your grandfather.
William Li: Yes– yes– yes.
Holly Williams: And what did you learn?
Li explained that when you're doing business, "Honesty is very important."
Li has founded or backed up about 40 start-ups including an online auto marketplace and a bike sharing company. His estimated net worth is $ 1.2 billion and Li has plowed $ 150 million of his own money into Nio.
Holly Williams: The Americans have been very slow to adopt electric cars.
William Li: Uh-huh (AFFIRM)
Holly Williams: Is It Different Here In China?
"it will definitely be fast, "Li told us, because the Chinese government is pushing electric cars.
In Shanghai, China has built the largest EV database in the world.
Holly Williams: This is a map of all the electric cars in Shanghai
Ding Xiaohua: Yeah
Ding Xiaohua is the deputy manager of the Shanghai Electric Vehicle Data Center, which collects millions of bits of information every day on nearly 200,000 electric cars on this city's streets.
Holly Williams: So let's find a Tesla.
Ding Xiaohua: So these are just Tesla brands.
Holly Williams: These are all Tesla?
Ding Xiaohua: Yeah.
Ding Xiaohua: For example, the speeds, mileage, battery temperature.
In the case of every electric vehicle in the city, there is a black box that automatically transmits data to the center every 30 seconds. Holly Williams:
Ding Xiaohua: Yes, public charging points, how many public charging points?
There is nothing like this in the U.S. or anywhere else. China is paving the way for the electric cars of the 21st century.
Most of the country's hundred or so EV start-ups will be killed by the competition. But William Li thinks Nio will survive and points out his company met its modest goal of delivering 10,000 cars by the last year.
Holly Williams: Why are the numbers so small at the moment?
"There are always problems and delays when a company ramps up the production of something new, "Li told us. And Nio's cars, he added, are all made-to-order.
We visited Nio's production line where the made-to-order cars are assembled in a spotless, automated, high-tech factory dominated by a corps of whirring robots.
And with China's massive manufacturing machine behind it, Nio may
At the company's research and development outpost in San Jose, California, Padma Warrior-Nio's CEO in the United States until December, predicting its cars will be someday be on American roads-
Holly Williams: What Will It Mean to American consumers and American drivers you hope?
Padma Warrior: I would hope consumers will look at it as the future.
Holly Williams: A Chinese future?
Padma Warrior: China-driven future.
Nio is one of nine Chinese electric vehicles or EV-companies to set up a shop on the West Coast where they can entice the world's best engineers, programmers and software developers. Nio has hired more than 600 of them.
Padma Warrior: We have people here who have worked at-at Google, at Apple at Cisco, at-at Tesla, you name it.
Holly Williams: Think some people may see that as a transfer of American Technology to a Chinese company.
Padma Warrior: I do not see that way. I think I see it more as, where is the biggest market for EVs, right? And where is the biggest pollution pollution problem? Clearly that's China.
This year, the Chinese government will require all global automakers in the country to make ten percent of their vehicles electric. American automakers are already investing billions in electric vehicle technology. But unlike the Chinese companies, they do not have the government trying to fix the race.
Autoindustrial consultant Michael Dunne warns China is determined to bend the electric car industry in its favor.
Michael Dunne: The size of the market alone makes China an irresistible place to be for any global automaker. If you're not in China, you're not playing. So China says, "Hmm, how badly do you need our market? All right "
Holly Williams: Has America already entrusted the leadership in this industry –  Michael Dunne: No. Not too late. It's so early.China's been making electric cars three years, four years
Holly Williams: When will it be too late?
Michael Dunne: If we wait till 2025 , China will be making 5 million a year, and if we're still making a half a million, now, all of the technology and design engineering is concentrated in China. How do you catch up with that?
Produced by Howard L. Rosenberg and Julie L. Holstein