This Vietnamese EV Maker Is Pouring Billions Into the U.S. Market and Could Rival Tesla

Vietnamese electric vehicle company VinFast has big plans.

In a recent TIME magazine profile on the company and its ambitions, CEO Le Thuy said VinFast’s goal is to “become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electric vehicles within five or ten years.”

The company plans to take on the global electric vehicle market in some ways, according to the profile. Its factory near Haiphong, Vietnam (which started operating in just 21 months) will start producing all-electric vehicles this month.

The company plans to build a factory in North Carolina that will produce cars by July 2024 and is looking for a site in Europe, the profile adds.

VinFast bought the 1,765 acres in Chatham County, North Carolina, for about $44 million this week, according to WRAL TechWire, a local tech-focused publication. It also opened six dealerships in California this month with plans to open a total of 30, according to CleanTechnica.

VinFast gets its big source of funding — about $6.6 billion, according to TIME — from its parent company VinGroup, which is Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, producing everything from universities to hospitals to lifestyle complexes.

Founder Pham Nhat Vuong started VinGroup after studying in Russia and selling his restaurant-turned-instant-noodle-behemoth based in Ukraine to Nestlé. Huong Le Thu, a senior fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre, told TIME that Vuong is “one of those visionary entrepreneurs. Maybe you could compare him to a Vietnamese Elon Musk.”

Because of Vuong’s background, VinGroup has close ties to Ukraine and Russia, according to the story. Vuong declined to be interviewed for the profile, but a “close confidant” told TIME that he is “heartbroken” by the invasion.

TIME looked extensively at VinGroup’s larger geopolitical environment, from Vietnam’s relations with China and Russia to the company’s status as a flagship in its home country, as well as the connections of the company in the USA.

President Biden tweeted positively about the company in March, which appeared to generate nearly 10,000 pre-orders in the US, Thuy told TIME.

“We keep joking [he’s] he’s the best seller we’ve ever had and we didn’t have to pay,” he told the network.

The electric vehicle maker has also secured funding from around the world. In early July, VinFast announced it raised $4 billion for the North Carolina factory, Bloomberg reported.

Still, competition is fierce in EV land, between gas guzzlers and incumbents, and it’s not easy for new companies to hold on, as the outlet points out. And despite their economic might, Chinese EV makers haven’t made it to the U.S., which is pretty much dominated by Tesla.

VinFast did not respond The entrepreneur request for comment on whether it sees Tesla as its main rival.

The company hopes to attract U.S. customers by charging a lower upfront price by leasing the batteries, the most expensive part of the car, for a monthly fee, then replacing the battery when it runs out, the profile added.

Michael Dunne, founder of market intelligence firm ZoZoGo EV, had a positive view of a VinFast model he reviewed, he told TIME.

“But the American market is not for the faint of heart,” he told the outlet.

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