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That Was (Vin)Fast: Former Opel CEO Already Left Vietnamese Carmaker

Michael Lohscheller was Opel’s CEO until July 27, when he was announced as the new CEO for VinFast. At the time, the company said he was still moving to Vietnam to start his work there. Less than five months later, he is back in Europe and away from VinFast: Le Thi Thu Thuy will take his role. She will remain as Vingroup vice chairwoman.
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VinFast is a massive business conglomerate in Vietnam. After working for the Lehman Brothers Bank in Japan, Singapore, and Thailand, Thuy was hired by VinFast in November 2008. She was in charge of creating VinFast’s automotive brand in 2017. At the 2018 Paris Motor Show, she was there to present the cars designed by Pininfarina. James Benjamin DeLuca – a former GM vice president – was the CEO.

It seems that the idea was to have someone in charge with experience in the automotive business. This is probably why Thuy was not named CEO since the beginning. It may be the case that she was named CEO just while the company does not hire another big name from legacy carmakers. We’ll soon see what will happen.

The official excuse for Lohscheller to leave the job and go back to Europe is “personal reasons.” In normal circumstances, people would question the executive’s decision. Being a new company, still willing to establish itself as a credible car manufacturer, Lohscheller’s departure will also make people wonder about the Vietnamese: it was just too (Vin)fast.

The former Opel CEO was in charge of putting VinFast cars in Europe and the U.S., making it a global brand. Leaving only five months after joining the company means he did not have time to accomplish the crucial task.

Any new carmaker established in a market, with a little internal market, has to rely on foreign buyers to become viable and competitive. That was what Hyundai and Kia had to do in South Korea and what Japanese carmakers did before them.

VinFast has another challenge ahead: it wants to become an electric car company. Although demand for EVs is rising, it is still limited to a small share of many markets, especially in the U.S. That may also be a fantastic opportunity if Thuy (or any future executive) manages to seize it competently, with proper time for establishing any strategy. Wish them luck.

 
 
 
 
 

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