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

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Vietnamese electric vehicle company VinFast has big plans.

In a recent TIME magazine profile about the company and its ambitions, CEO Le Thuy said VinFast’s goal is “to become one of the top global EV makers in five to 10 years.”

The company plans to take on the global EV market in a few ways. First, its factory near Haiphong, Vietnam — which it got up and running in just 21 months — will start producing entirely electric vehicles this month.

Next, the company has plans to build a factory in North Carolina that will be producing cars by July 2024. Finally, the company is looking for a site in Europe, TIME reported.

VinFast purchased 1,765 acres in Chatham County, North Carolina for about $44 million in early August. It also opened six dealerships in California this month with plans to open a total of 30.

VinFast gets its big funding source, about $6.6 billion, according to TIME, from its parent company VinGroup, which is the largest conglomerate in Vietnam, producing everything from universities to hospitals to living complexes.

VinGroup’s founder, Pham Nhat Vuong, began the company after studying in Russia and selling his restaurant-turned-instant-noodle behemoth based in Ukraine to Nestlé.

Huong Le Thu, principal fellow at Perth USAsia Centre, told TIME that Vuong is “one of those visionary entrepreneurs. Maybe you could compare him to a Vietnamese Elon Musk.”

The TIME profile analyzed the larger geopolitical environment for VinGroup at length, from Vietnam’s relationships with China and Russia to the company’s status as a standard bearer in its home country to the company’s connections in the U.S.

President Biden tweeted positively about the company in March, which appeared to drive nearly 10,000 U.S. preorders, Thuy told TIME.

“We keep joking that [he’s] is the best salesman that we’ve ever had, and we didn’t have to pay,” she told the outlet.

The EV 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, and it’s not easy for new companies to hang on, especially in the U.S. Despite their economic might, for example, Chinese EV makers have not pursued the U.S. market, which is dominated by Tesla.

VinFast did not respond to Entrepreneur’s request for comment as to whether it sees Tesla as its biggest rival.

The company hopes to lure American customers by charging a lower up-front car cost by leasing the batteries — the most expensive part of the car — for a monthly rate and then swapping the battery when it runs out.

Michael Dunne, the founder of ZoZoGo EV market intelligence firm, gave a positive review to a VinFast model he examined, he told TIME.

“But the U.S. market is not for the fainthearted,” he told the outlet.

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