Things are happening quickly at VinFast – Vietnam’s electric car manufacturer. Hot on the heels of signing agreements with dealerships in the all-important US market, and an MoU with India to build a US$2 billion manufacturing facility, the company has a new CEO.
This is significant because that person also happens to be the founder and chairman of Vingroup Pham Nhat Vuong – VinFast’s parent company and the country’s largest conglomerate – and also Vietnam’s richest man, with an estimated personal fortune of US$4.6 billion.
Not only that, but Vuong is also indirectly VinFast’s biggest customer – with around 60% of Q3 sales (around 6,000 vehicles) going to taxi operator Green SM, which is 95% owned by the tycoon.
Voung moves from his current role as Chairman of the Board of VinFast to take the CEO position. He will continue as a Director and will also assume the role of Managing Director.
Previous CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy will assume the position of Chairwoman of the Board, while Nguyen Thi Lan Anh replaces David Mansfield as CFO.
The move comes at a pivotal moment for the EV brand, and follows a successful SPAC in 2023 valued around US$27 billion.
It seems 55-year-old Vuong has the golden touch, and that view is reflected by the Board which sees him as the ideal person to accelerate VinFast’s ambitions. Vuong will now oversee global production, sales, and marketing.
Those ambitions are also taking shape. There is a US$6.5 billion car plant upcoming in North Carolina which will have the capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles by 2025.
While only five independent dealers have currently signed up to sell VinFast’s range of vehicles, the aim is to have 125 in the US, VinFast also has 13 retail outlets of its own in California.
This model of building production capability in key markets is also being replicated in India – the world’s most populous nation and a fast-growing EV market.
The VinFast project in Tamil Nadu also aims to produce 150,000 vehicles a year, similar to the factory in the US, with construction due to start this year.
The man behind Vietnam's EV movement
So who is Pham Nhat Voung and how did he make his billions? The story is as twisting as a mountain road, and just as unpredictable.
Vuong’s business career took off, unlike surely all others, by selling instant noodles in Ukraine. He eventually sold that business, Technocom, to Nestle for a reported US$150 million in 2009.
Upon returning to Vietnam, savvy investments in Vietnam’s burgeoning luxury hospitality and real estate saw Voung become the country’s first dollar billionaire.
Vingroup – the multi sector corporation that emerged from the noodle business – now covers three main pillars. These are technology & industry, trade & services, and social enterprise. As well as VinFast, there is VinAI, VinBigData, VinUniversity, VinSchools, VinHomes and many more – covering everything from mobility to medical.
VinFast was only established in 2017 and is already a best-seller in Vietnam. Boasting tech that would not be out of place in a Tesla, now VinFast is looking to deliver on its mission for global sales.
However, with around 50,000 sales expected for the whole of 2023, VinFast has a lot of catching up to do to even register with market leader Tesla’s 1.8 million units, not to mention China’s BYD that shifted a record 526,409 units in Q4 alone.
Everyone has to start somewhere, even if it is selling instant noodles, and Vuong has proven time and again he is prepared for the journey, and willing to dig deep into his own substantial pockets to achieve success.
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