What happened

Shares of Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO (NYSE:NIO) were clobbered in September, after a disappointing earnings report raised the possibility that the company would soon run out of cash.

NIO's American depositary shares lost about 45.5% of their value in September, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

So what

Its second-quarter earnings report was delayed from early August to Sept. 24 amid rumors that the company was scrambling to raise additional cash. Those rumors had a basis in fact: When it was finally released, NIO's report showed that it had burned about $620 million in cash in the quarter, and had just $503.4 million remaining as of June 30. 

The company had said on Sep. 5 that it had an agreement to raise $200 million by the end of the month, half from its CEO and half from key backer Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY). But NIO has yet to confirm that the deal closed as promised. It might not help anyway: A key analyst said on Sept. 30 that even with that $200 million, the company likely had just weeks of cash remaining.

A red NIO ES6, a sleek upscale electric crossover SUV.

NIO is hoping that its new ES6 SUV can generate enough sales to keep it afloat. Image source: NIO, Inc.

Now what

NIO has pinned its hopes on the ES6, a five-passenger premium electric SUV that has sold fairly well since its launch in June. But it may need a government bailout or a trip through China's equivalent of bankruptcy court -- or both -- to survive much longer, and right now it's unclear how either of those developments would affect existing investors.

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