Lê Thị Thu Thủy


It’s barely been five years since the formation of Vietnam’s first domestic car company và less than three since it rolled out its first product, a heavily modified version of the BMW X5. But if anything, the Vietnamese startup takes the word “fast” in its name quite seriously.

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VinFast’s new CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy will retain her role as Vingroup vice chair.

VinFast is already set khổng lồ stop production of gas-powered models. It introduced two battery-electric vehicles at the LA tự động hóa Show last November and unwrapped three more at the Consumer Electronics Show this month. Four of those BEVs will soon go on sale in the U.S. Meanwhile, VinFast is planning to mở cửa up a new U.S. Assembly plant, with an announcement of its location expected soon.

The carmaker is running at hyperspeed, even though it has gone through several management shake-ups. Most recently, Michael Lohscheller, the former Opel chief, resigned as VinFast’s CEO. He has been replaced by Le Thi Thu Thuy.

“Madame Thuy,” as she is known within the company, has had extensive international experience, graduating from Hanoi Foreign Trade University then receiving an MBA from the International University of Japan. She continued her education at the Harvard Kennedy School. Thuy spent eight years with Lehman Brothers before its collapse, then joined Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest corporate entity. It operates a wide business portfolio, everything from schools to shopping centers to spas and resorts — và now, VinFast.

With Lohscheller’s departure, Thuy takes on the dual role of Vingroup Vice Chair — her previous position — and CEO of VinFast. She spoke with dienlanhcaonguyen.com following the automaker’s CES debut.

VinFast introduced five new electric vehicles at the recent CES show, including four for the U.S.

dienlanhcaonguyen.com: The company is so different from where it seemed khổng lồ be going in 2018. Let’s talk about the changes và the switch khổng lồ electrification & the five new BEVs.

Thuy: We’ve come a long way since 2017 & the summer of 2018. We started with it in mind khổng lồ be a global EV company. We took the path khổng lồ start with internal combustion engine vehicles so that we could learn how lớn develop và manufacturer vehicles. That was the fastest và best way for us lớn learn. We can utilize that knowledge for manufacturing EVs.

TDB: You launched your first vehicle, a version of the BMW X5, in 2019. What has happened since then?

Thuy: We have focused on two main tasks. One is lớn dominate the (Vietnamese) domestic market, which we did within 18 months. We have now reached 70% lớn 90% market share. The second mission was to lớn develop a portfolio of electric vehicles that can help us go global. So, today we have platforms all the way from the A segment khổng lồ E (mini khổng lồ full-size). We showed five of them at CES, with two introduced at the LA tự động hóa Show last November. We have a sixth that was introduced in Vietnam on Christmas Day.

Michael Lohscheller resigned as CEO of VinFast, returning to lớn Europe for personal reasons.

TDB: How important are the ones you introduced at CES, the VF5, VF6 & VF7?

Thuy: They complete our portfolio and it is powerful because I am not aware of anyone else in the market who has the whole portfolio of electric vehicles in all the different segments that will be available by the middle of next year.

TDB: What price range are you looking at?

Thuy: We are just releasing the prices on the vehicles you saw in L.A., (the VF7 and VF8). It will depend on variant, but they will start at around $40,000 và $60,000.

TDB: You have an intriguing idea about pricing. Those figures don’t include the battery packs, right? Essentially, if I understand, customers will lease the batteries according to lớn how much they expect lớn use the vehicles?

Thuy: Yes, it is a leasing mã sản phẩm that is unique. It is a way for us lớn get the consumer to switch from internal combustion engine vehicles lớn EVs because the pricing (of batteries) is still too expensive. There are many hurdles for a consumer wanting to buy an electric vehicle. So we’re doing this khổng lồ make it easier.

TDB: How does this work?

At the start, VinFast will focus on California và other states with high BEV sales.

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Thuy: We’re pricing the vehicles at more or less same pricing as (if they had) internal combustion engines of equivalent size. We will lease the batteries at a cost that is no more than what they normally pay khổng lồ put gasoline in the, minus the cost for electricity. We will have two types of battery leasing schemes. One is flexible, where you pay per kilometer (that you drive). The other is a fixed amount. You can drive as much as you want.

Getting into the American market

TDB: EVs are not a major part of the U.S. Market yet.

Thuy: They are not mainstream.

TDB: What is your biggest challenge lớn get into the U.S. Market? Clearly, the U.S. Has historically been reluctant to lớn admit new entries.

Thuy: We are a new brand. We need to lớn prove ourselves. But I see the industry is quite mở cửa to newcomers at this time. (But) I’m not saying that it will be easy và that there won’t be challenges.

At launch, the models will be offered with semi-autonomous level 2+ driving capabilities, according to VinFast Chief công nghệ Officer Hong sang trọng Bae.

TDB: và how vì you think Americans will accept a Vietnamese brand?

Thuy: We did some research & the recognition of Vietnam is great. But, obviously, it’s not well known for technology. But the overall feedback is positive for a Vietnamese brand going into the U.S. So we are emphasizing our chất lượng by giving a 10-year warranty on our vehicles globally. So that, hopefully, can deliver the message that we are serious about quality.

TDB: You seem to be taking a slightly different strategy from the Asian companies that came khổng lồ the U.S. In the past. You’re not trying lớn buy market nội dung by selling entry-level products at a steep discount. Rather, it seems you’re offering well-equipped, higher-end products, but at an affordable price.

Thuy: Exactly. (Parent company) Vingroup provides premium unique products to the mass market. That’s exactly the same thing we will vì here.

Building EVs in the U.S.

VinFast revealed two new EVs at the recent LA tự động hóa Show.

TDB: Before he left the company last month, former CEO Michael Lohscheller told me he was planning to build a U.S. Assembly plant. Is that still your plan now that he has left?

Thuy: Yes, we are still going with it. I’m next going with our VP of manufacturing and a few other people to lớn see the sites that we have selected. We are very close. We have three competing sites và we need to lớn decide which one we want to move forward with.

TDB: & what sort of timetable vị you have? What sort of capacity would that plant have?

Thuy: We (will try) to lớn replicate what we have in Vietnam. So, we are planning khổng lồ build a factory that can manufacture about 250,000 vehicles per year, & a Gigafactory to manufacture battery cells and the pack. & there will be another electric bus factory, as well. Today, we manufacture VinFast electric buses for Vietnam và we are developing electric buses for the U.S. And European market, as well.

TDB: That is a pretty hefty number, 250,000. Are you looking for that khổng lồ produce vehicles for export, as well?

Thuy: We don’t think 250,000 is a lot, starting in 2024, for the North American market. That would be a lot if we were just trying lớn get (traditional) EV customers. We’re looking khổng lồ switch consumers from ICE to lớn EVs. When you look at the combined market, there’s a lot (of potential customers).

TDB: Are you also working on autonomous technology?

Thuy: Yes, we are. The vehicles we’re delivering in the U.S. This year I expect will have màn chơi 2+ assisted driving. Và we are looking at the next cấp độ of autonomous driving that will be delivered in our premium vehicle next year.

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