By Phuong Nguyen
HANOI (Reuters) -Vietnamese electric vehicle (EV) maker VinFast on Saturday named its founder and biggest financial backer, Pham Nhat Vuong, as chief executive as it plans an ambitious overseas expansion and ramps up sales via dealerships.
Vuong, 55, replaces Le Thi Thu Thuy, who had held the post since late 2021, VinFast said in a statement. Thuy, a finance expert, will serve as chairwoman and lead engagement with external stakeholders.
Vuong, also the founder and chairman of Vingroup – Vietnam’s biggest conglomerate and VinFast’s parent company – will directly oversee the EV maker’s operations, including global production, sales and marketing, the company said.
He will be VinFast’s fourth chief executive. Previous CEOs include General Motors veteran James Deluca and Michael Lohscheller, who came from Opel and Volkswagen.
In the latest executive changes for the ambitious Vietnamese automaker, VinFast appointed Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, who oversees financial matters at Vingroup’s EV battery arm, as chief financial officer, replacing David Mansfield, who was in place from 2022.
“It is the right time to evolve the Company’s leadership as it enters the next phase of its development,” VinFast’s Board of Directors said.
Founded in 2017, VinFast started manufacturing EVs in 2021 and has continuously received financial support from Vuong, who is Vietnam’s richest man, according to Forbes.
In April 2023, Vuong provided VinFast with a $1 billion grant.
VinFast, which is yet to make a profit, has entered the EV market at a time when car prices are under pressure, led by cuts at market leader Tesla and a range of Chinese companies, including BYD.
The company closed the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, with a net loss of $623 million.
In June 2023, Hanoi-born Vuong said that he expected VinFast “to reach break even point by the end of 2024”.
Vuong built his initial fortune in Ukraine, where he moved in the early 1990s after studying engineering in Russia and manufactured instant noodles, before selling the firm to Nestle SA for an undisclosed sum.
He returned to Vietnam in 2002 and established the country’s biggest conglomerate, focused on real estate, resorts, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and, more recently, EVs.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by William Mallard and Gerry Doyle)