Vietnam — Turning EV Dreams into Reality?

On my recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City, I had the opportunity to check out one of the showrooms of VinFast, a Vietnamese electric carmaker with lofty ambitions to make a mark in the EV industry at home and abroad.

The VinFast VF8 is a 5-seat SUV

I’m impressed by VinFast’s aspirations — from what I saw, their cars are comparable to the likes of Tesla in both appearance and engineering. But after all, introducing electric cars to an emerging market is by no means an easy feat. Electric cars by default are more expensive than their gasoline counterparts so price, for one, can be a deterrent. Many emerging markets also lack the necessary EV infrastructure, such as charging stations, which can make it difficult for people to use these vehicles on a daily basis. For VinFast to compete in the US with established names is also a huge undertaking. I find the EV industry in general very crowded and competitive. The return on capital is also not high. From an investment standpoint, it’s just not something I’m currently considering right now. Nonetheless I admire VinFast’s ambitions. Just last week, it was reported that the company received US$2.5 billion in capital injection, of which US$1 billion came from its parent company Vingroup’s founder Pham Nhat Vuong’s personal wealth. It’s always nice to see a homegrown company in an emerging economy dreaming big and bringing innovation to the market.

After visiting the showroom, I explored more of Ho Chi Minh City, taking in the great city views from one of its tallest towers. I also visited the HCMC Fine Arts Museum, housed in old colonial buildings, where I found exuberant local sculptures and paintings, both old and new.

Enjoying a bird's-eye view of Ho Chi Minh City's stunning skyline
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts

My search for the History Museum led me to the Zoo, where I encountered a student band and a monument to the French founder of the museum. Finally, I arrived at the History Museum, which featured a wonderful exhibition of ancient sculptures.

History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
An ancient sculpture on display

In the evening, I went to the impeccably restored French colonial opera house to see Bamboo Circus acrobats execute breathtaking maneuvers with giant bamboo poles, huge baskets and other feats.

Ho Chi Minh City Opera House

The next day, I flew to Danang, where I visited the Ba Na Hills Resort/Theme Park. The park is located 1,500 meters up in a mountain covered with lush forest and is reached by a cable car which holds the world record for longest non-stop single track cable car over 5,000 meters in length. Since my last visit several years ago, additional cables have been installed to handle the surge of visitors. At the top is a recreation of an old French village, a reflection that the spot was originally a French colonial resort for French trying to escape the coastal heat. I found it to be a spectacular location with all kinds of exhibitions and entertainment.

At the Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park

Ba Na Hills has the longest single-track cable car system in the world

After the French village, we took another cable car to see the incredible giant hands bridge. The bridge, named 'Golden Bridge', is a 150-meter-long pedestrian bridge that traverses the stunning landscape of the Trường Sơn Mountains. From afar it looks like a pair of giant hands lifting the ribbon-like Golden Bridge high up in the air. The views from the bridge were simply breathtaking.

The Golden Bridge is a tourist favorite in Danang
Striking a pose on the stunning Golden Bridge

As Vietnam continues to evolve and diversify, it is essential to keep an eye on this burgeoning market and the potential it holds for future growth. In general, there are good opportunities in the software sector and also in consumer products. Companies looking to reduce their reliance on China are increasingly turning to markets like Vietnam for manufacturing. For example, Samsung has developed a huge manufacturing presence in the country. Samsung's four manufacturing plants in Vietnam brought in nearly US$71 billion last year, making up 30% of the South Korean tech giant's global revenue. In 2022, Samsung achieved a revenue of US$234 billion, indicating a growth of over 8% compared to the previous year.

With companies like Samsung already making significant investments in the country, it will be interesting to see how Vietnam's economy evolves in the coming years.

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