It’s a familiar story: A business mogul parlaying much of his fortune into a massive bet on electric vehicles, only to fall on hard times.
Pham Nhat Vuong is among the latest to take after Elon Musk, the PayPal mafia member who made it through what he famously described as Tesla Inc.’s “production hell.” Other examples include James Dyson, the household-appliance billionaire; Jia Yueting, founder of the Netflix of China; and Hui Ka Yan, the embattled property tycoon behind China Evergrande Group.
The odds that any of these players ride out the inferno as Tesla did are looking increasingly long. Dyson pulled the plug on his EV venture in 2019. Jia’s Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc. is staring down a potential Nasdaq delisting. And Hui’s China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd. is struggling to survive.
Vuong’s difficulties are proving costly. VinFast, his automaker that filed for a initial public offering a year ago, has delayed plans to list in the U.S. Vingroup JSC — Vuong’s conglomerate spanning homes, hotels, hospitals and shopping malls — and its affiliates and lenders have deployed a staggering $8.2 billion to fund the car company’s operating expenses and capital expenditures the last six years.
The return on all that investment has been meager: VinFast sold just 93,000 vehicles and 162,000 e-scooters.
Vuong has only doubled down, lining up another $2.5 billion for VinFast, $1 billion of which will come from him personally. This month, the company plans to start delivering longer-range versions of its VF 8 crossovers to U.S. customers.