Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio (NIO 0.31%) said that it delivered 10,878 vehicles in November, its highest-ever monthly total and more than double its year-ago result.

It's a result that shows that Nio is -- for now, at least -- back on its growth path after several months of up-and-down results, and well-positioned for further growth in 2022.

What Nio said about its strong November sales results

Nio announced the results in a short statement released early on Wednesday. Here are the highlights.

  • Deliveries were up 105.6% from November 2020.
  • It was the best month for Nio's flagship ES8 SUV since 2018, with 2,683 ES8s delivered. 
  • It was the best month for the Nio EC6 since shipments of the model began in September 2020. Nio delivered 3,482 EC6s in November.
  • It was the second-best month for the five-passenger ES6 since its introduction in June 2019, with 4,713 delivered. (The best-ever month was September 2021, when Nio delivered 5,260 ES6s.) 
  • Through November, Nio had delivered 80,940 vehicles in 2021, up 120.4% year-over-year. 
  • Nio has delivered a grand total of 156,581 vehicles since production of the ES8 began in June 2018.

Long story short, it was a much needed good month for Nio. 

Why 2021 has been an up-and-down year for Nio

Late last year, Nio and its manufacturing partner began installing a series of upgrades that boosted production capacity to around 10,000 vehicles a month. But despite continued strong demand, Nio has only been able to hit that number twice so far -- in September, and now in November.

A bar chart showing Nio's monthly sales rising over time, with a few bumps.

Data source: Nio. Chart by author. Chart shows Nio's monthly deliveries since the beginning of ES8 production in late June 2018.

As with many other automakers, supply chain issues forced Nio to limit production in the spring and summer of 2021. While things were improving in September, Nio's output was hurt again in October when it took factory downtime to add tooling for its upcoming ET7 sedan. 

Nio has also lost some ground to rivals Xpeng (XPEV -1.54%) and Li Auto (LI -0.96%) simply because of its new-product cadence. Nio's most recent new model was the EC6, launched in September of last year. That's a long time in the fast-moving Chinese market: Both Xpeng and Li have launched revised models since the EC6's debut, and both are reaping the benefits for the moment.

Why 2022 should be a better year for Nio

The good news for Nio is that its new-product story will be much different next year. The 2022 chapter will start with the ET7, a sleek technology-packed sedan set to become the company's new flagship model. 

Nio CEO William Bin Li is shown on an auto show stage with a white ET7, a sleek electric sedan.

Nio CEO William Bin Li revealed the company's upcoming ET7 sedan at an event in January. The ET7 is expected to begin shipping soon. Image source: Nio.

ET7 deliveries are expected to begin early next year -- possibly as soon as January -- with two additional new Nios expected before 2022 comes to a close. 

Investors new to the auto industry should note that this is just how things work, and not a knock on Nio. Generally speaking, new vehicles draw more buyers and deliver higher profit margins than models that have been out for a while. That cycle is accelerated in China because of the huge number of automakers competing in that market and because of Chinese consumers' focus on technology, but it's otherwise not different from what we've seen in other auto markets for years. 

Put simply, 2021 wasn't the easiest year for Nio (or its investors), but the company handled the ups and downs well and is on course to -- hopefully -- have a stronger year in 2022.