VinFast Opens Shop in the Philippines, Expanding Its Southeast Asian Presence

Vinfast Opens Shop In The Philippines Expanding Its Southeast Asian Presence

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Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer VinFast, supported by Vietnam’s largest conglomerate Vingroup, made a grand entrance into the Philippine EV market on May 31. The launch event featured two compact SUVs, a full-size SUV, a hatchback, and an impressive lineup of electric motorcycles. This expansion into the Philippines, following successful entries in Thailand and Indonesia, marks a significant step in VinFast’s global strategy.

Having attended VinFast’s previous launch in Vietnam, I observed their tailored approach to the Philippine market. It was evident that they had thoroughly researched and planned their entry.

“The Philippines is a very important market for VinFast. We believe that it is a very diverse and challenging market, which is perfect for our vehicles and our overall strategy,” Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc, CEO and President of VinFast Auto Philippines, told CleanTechnica during an exclusive media dinner before the event.

Expressing strong optimism about VinFast’s growth prospects, she highlighted how putting together an experienced team of veterans from the Philippine automotive industry will make the challenges easier to overcome.

Rapid Setup & Strategic Planning

VinFast Auto Philippines was quickly established following a high-level meeting between Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vingroup Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong in Hanoi last January.

The agreements from this meeting led Vingroup to announce its investment plans in the Philippines, including its EV taxi company, Green and Smart Moving (GSM), and VinFast.

This investment aligns with the Philippines’ efforts to modernize its transportation sector and shift towards electric vehicles. President Marcos Jr. welcomed Vingroup’s interest, emphasizing the country’s resources for potential battery production and its commitment to fostering a favorable business environment for foreign investors.

Comprehensive Vehicle Lineup

The Philippine VinFast lineup includes the VF e34, VF 5, VF 7, and VF 9 electric cars, alongside 6 electric motorcycle models. Additionally, the VF DrgnFly electric bike was showcased for demonstration purposes.

“These vehicles are designed to cater to a wide range of consumer preferences, from compact city cars to spacious SUVs,” explained Nguyen. She emphasized that VinFast’s products meet stringent safety standards, incorporate advanced smart features, and are competitively priced, aligning with the company’s mission to make electric mobility accessible to everyone.

Dealer Partnerships & Market Strategy

VinFast executives and first dealer principals at the “Living Unbound” launch activity. (Photo from VinFast)

VinFast Auto Philippines has already partnered with four major dealers: EV Solutions, K1 Prestige Bay Motors Inc, Autoflare Corporation, and MNV Auto Group Inc. The first showrooms are set to open in Manila by the end of June 2024, with initial customer deliveries expected in the third quarter.

“Our strategy diverges from the usual automotive route. We seek entrepreneurs both within and outside the automotive sphere because the technology of electric cars — and the uniqueness of VinFast’s innovations, like the battery subscription service — offers a distinct customer experience,” explained Deputy CEO for Sales and Marketing Jude Racadio.

Rafael Vincente R. Calinisan, a representative of EV Solutions, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, “It’s an honor to be among the first VinFast dealerships driving the electric car revolution in the Philippines. We’re impressed by VinFast’s strong market potential, thanks to their variety of vehicles and industry-leading warranty. Together, we’ll meet the growing Filipino demand for EVs and build a greener, smarter transportation future for the country.”

Addressing Challenges & Learning from Experience

Their initial foray into the North American market faced a lukewarm reception, with mixed reviews from journalists and early customers.

Journalists like Mack Hogan of Car and Driver called the VF8 last year as “unacceptable.” Kevin Williams, writing for Jalopnik, said in 2022 that “it was just not ready for America.” Domeneck Yoney of Inside EVs called the VF8 an “electric utility vehicle that needs to hit finishing school.”

Then there were the fierce comments from James Pumphrey and Nolan Skyes of who reviewed the EV to confirm “if it was as bad as other reviewers said it was.” Their verdict was that the car “has everything that makes EVs annoying,” going on to claim that “nothing works.”

CleanTechnica’s initial test drive of the VinFast VF8 in Vietnam found it capable but lacking inspiration. However, a subsequent test drive in California showed substantial improvements, highlighting VinFast’s commitment to addressing feedback and improving quality.

Leveraging on Experience

In the Philippines, VinFast aims to leverage lessons learned from its North American experience. The company introduced a battery subscription policy to make electric vehicles more affordable, allowing customers to purchase the vehicle and battery separately, reducing upfront costs.

“Our battery leasing and vehicle-with-battery sales options provide consumers with more choices,” Nguyen explained. “This approach helps customers reduce upfront costs by separating the battery from the vehicle price, potentially making monthly EV operating costs comparable to or even more competitive than gasoline-powered vehicles.”

VinFast also offers a free battery replacement and maintenance program for customers who opt for the battery subscription, enhancing the value proposition for potential buyers.

The VinFast Auto Philippines management team is led by Jude Racadio, Deputy CEO for Sales and Marketing, who used to be Assistant to the General Manager for Automobiles at Suzuki Philippines and commercial vehicle distributor United Auto Group. Cherrey Lou Villaster, formerly of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines, as Marketing Director, and Ginia Domingo, formerly of Columbian Motors, as Business Development Director. Margo Delfinado heads after-sales as Deputy CEO, and Peter Garcia leads network and dealer development.

Rapid Expansion in Southeast Asia

VinFast’s expansion in Southeast Asia is a testament to its ambition and agility. The Philippines launch follows successful entries in Thailand and Indonesia, solidifying the company’s regional presence. VinGroup’s GSM EV taxis have also made inroads into Laos, further expanding their footprint.

In Thailand, VinFast made a noteworthy entrance at the 2024 Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS), signing Letters of Intent (LOI) with 15 initial dealerships. This strategic move positions VinFast to capitalize on the growing demand for electric vehicles in the region and establish itself as a major player in the global EV market.

With a diverse product range, innovative pricing models, and a commitment to customer satisfaction, VinFast is poised to make a significant impact on the Philippine automotive landscape and beyond, driving the global shift towards sustainable mobility.

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