VinFast, the Vietnam-based electric-vehicle maker, is shifting into high gear. The company on Dec. 7 said it had filed for an initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company said on Nov. 25 that it was sending its first batch of 999 VF 8s, the company’s five-seater electric SUV, to America aboard the Silver Queen, a Panamanian charter ship.
This is the corporation will open a manufacturing plant in North Carolina.
Michael Goldberg, a professor with the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, noted recently that “VinGroup is involved in quite a few businesses and have deep pockets.” He added that VinFast “is not a thinly capitalized startup in the EV space.”
Looks like VinGroup is here to stay. But are their EVs any good? We’ll see.
Methinks the US EV marketplace will be crowded by 2024/25 with many manufacturers competing for customers.
The challenge on a product like this from an unexpected source is not their quality or efficacy, but rather their ability to convince the market that the cars can be serviced and receive great customer support nation-wide over the long term.
Back around 1991, my firm was the exclusive vendor on NYS contract of the PC’s manufactured by NEC, a major Japanese electronics company. We were competing against IBM’s PS/1. They were touting that IBM was a New York State based company pitted against a “Japanese manufacturer”. I thought I was pretty clever to point out that, while the NEC units (which way outperformed the IBM PC’s, as well as being less expensive and using the traditional 5.25" floppy, rather than the, then unique, 3.5" drive) were manufactured in Massachusetts’s, USA, the IBM PS/1 was manufactured in Japan and, if the determining factor was whether the reseller was a NYS company - well I was one as well.
So, we were the clear leader (I figured). We never got a call-back and the agency bought IBM. In my more than three decades of both selling and competing against firms like IBM, Cisco, Digital Equipment et al, logic, benefits and cost savings rarely trumps going with the herd.
I just looked briefly at their numbers. Looks like just under $2B EBITDA and they already have a 3.5X debt/EBITDA. They have about $1B in cash. They don’t appear to report “free cash flow” in their financials. I suppose we will have to wait until they file that info with the SEC in a few weeks (they want to list in USA soon).
Having $1B in cash for a new EV automaker has never been shown to be near sufficient to reach CF breakeven. Many people even consider $5B to not be enough!
EV manufacturers following Tesla kinda have a blueprint to follow plus much cheaper batteries as supply lines have been set up now.
Musk was bankrupt in 2008. What saved him was the federal government.
Musk’s worst year ever was saved in the final stretches by NASA. The space agency offered Musk a $1.5 billion contract two days before Christmas.
Pham Nhat Vuong like Musk has other businesses that could supply cash flow.
VinFast seem to have 2 designs (suvs) ready to go.
And to complicate matters VinFast has a monthly battery subscription charge.
It expects this plan will allow owners to have peace of mind when it comes to battery life. VinFast also will provide a lifetime battery warranty covering all maintenance and repair costs, and will replace the battery for free if charging capacity falls below 70%. The battery subscription policy is considered a key solution for customers to make a transition to electric vehicles easier, allowing VinFast to become “the car for everyone.”
Now the fly in the ointment.
For an extra $35 (VF8) or $44 (VF9) per month, the driver is allotted 310 miles per month. This adds up to a paltry 3,720 miles per year. For reference, the average mileage per driver in a year is 13,476, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Anything over 310 miles is billed at $0.11 per mile (VF8), or $0.13 per mile (VF9). That isn’t enough miles for most drivers, so VinFast offers an unlimited plan for $110 and $160 for the VF8 and VF9 respectively.
I pressed three different VinFast contacts for details, including a salesman in the San Mateo VinFast store, a customer service rep from the VinFast hotline, and a VinFast PR representative. There are no origination fees for the lease itself. There are no price differences between leasing the smaller battery and the larger battery, either. VinFast says when the battery drops below 70%, it will replace the battery with a new one. That’s all fine and cool, but the battery payments never end. If you purchase a VinFast EV, you are locked into a forever lease, paying on the battery in perpetuity, at least until you sell the vehicle to the next owner.
So VinFast is taking the BMW monthly seat heating charge to the next level.
I suppose one is able to get into a VinFast cheaper but there is an additional battery subscription charge. The up side is one won’t be hit with a $15000 charge for a new battery pack if it malfunction which happened to a few Tesla owners whose vehicle is out of warranty. With the Vin Fast business model your battery is never out of warranty.
I wasn’t saying or implying that they can’t succeed, I was simply addressing this comment.
Nowhere do I see that they are well capitalized.
I checked their website a few weeks ago, and their whole battery lease thing is kind of weird. I’m not sure how Americans will take to that. It’s kind of like buying a house and having to pay rent anyway. On the other hand, people who worry about battery deterioration might actually like it. And on the third hand, people may not protect*1 their battery as much as they normally would if they owned the battery themselves.
*1 Battery charging habits have some influence on how well the battery will perform over time.
People do have to “pay rent” when they buy a house: Taxes, insurance, maintenance, and so on.
Thus, the real question is very simple: What is the TOTAL cost of owning the various cars made by each company–based on the total number of miles YOU drive each year. Plus, what happens when you want to get a different car (either another VF car OR another brand)? A VF car will not have an old battery–but how long will the rest of the car last? THAT is a major issue given a battery lease.
Then, what happens if/when VF goes bust? Will VF have to post some type of bond by an independent US third party to cover that buyer risk?
Not really. Because you are not “buying” a battery in the purchase price. So, what is the price difference in TOTAL? Can’t be determined until you apply your own driving distance per year, but just get the biggest battery with the maximum mileage per year–because that is how it will be typically used in the US. That means you are NOT under-valuing your cost of owning the vehicle in reasonable annual use.
The only exception would be a vehicle primarily used for short commutes (what I call a “commuter scooter”).
Remember: Another “ongoing rent cost” is heating/AC, telecom (all types–including services such as Comcast, Netflix, and so on), AND electricity (heat can be created by something other than electricity but A/C tends to be mostly electric, as even a heat exchanger is electric).
I looked at the list prices for VF and, IMO, their cars are massively over-priced.
Is it really ownership if you don’t own the batteries?
In some ways, you might compare it to a car lease with a really big down payment and smaller monthly payments. You get value out of the car only if you keep making the monthly payments. Stop making payments, and you have a large paperweight in your driveway.
I’m also tempted to compare it to building a home on leased land. If you don’t make the lease payments, you get evicted from the land. Feel free to take the structure with you.
With that out of the way, my more real world concern would be in how the lease is actually operated. Does VinFast have some means of shutting down the car if you don’t make payments? Or - even worse - do they have some expiration date they need to constantly update on the car? (Payment made, so add another month to the expiration of the lease.)
What I’m getting at is this. For those who have no difficulty making the monthly payment, are problems with VinFast a concern? What happens if they go out of business? Does my car continue to work?
By 2024-25 we will be seeing a lot more EV options in the USA. Chinese manufacturers, such as XPEV, have just begun selling their EVs in the EU. Hopefully some EVs will reach a price point where they match IC vehicles. That’s when EV sales will take off. Of course IC vehicles will remain on the roads for decades unless government interferes with the free market.
I admit I have been surprised by battery advances that led to more EV range. But I think the easy advances have been made and that further advances will yield less incremental range. Of course I could be wrong. We’ll see. A key advancement would be faster charging without damaging the battery pack.