VinFast electric vehicles are getting into the ride-hailing business through a deal between Vingroup’s chairman and Vietnamese startup Be Group.
Pham Nhat Vuong, the founder of VinFast owner Vingroup, set up a new company called Green and Smart Mobility (GSM) that will supply electric motorbikes and cars and also invest in Be.
Be meanwhile operates a digital bank with Vietnam Prosperity Bank, which will “provide exclusive preferential policies for its drivers to lease or buy VinFast” EVs “at attractive prices,” according to a joint statement on Tuesday.
The deal means that when customers book a ride or delivery on Be, a rival of Grab and Gojek, they can select either gas-powered vehicles or VinFast EVs offered by GSM.
Cars remain out of reach for most Vietnamese, though demand is rising. Monthly rentals for GSM corporate clients start at USD 401 per car, plus USD 113 for the battery and a per-kilometer fee, Tuoi Tre newspaper reports.
“The exclusive deal for Be drivers is not yet finished,” a Be spokesman told Nikkei Asia.
The two companies did not say how much GSM will invest in Be.
“The figure can’t be disclosed,” the spokesman said.
Be is betting on synergy between its banking and ride-hailing services. For example, data on drivers, such as their income, can inform credit decisions. Taxi and ride-hailing drivers have struggled to make car payments after COVID shutdowns obliterated demand and interest rates rose, though Vietnam’s central bank made a surprise rate cut this month.
VinFast meanwhile is behind schedule in the U.S., where it has pushed back construction of a North Carolina plant by at least a year and delivered only 45 SUVs more than two months late, out of 999 vehicles originally shipped from Vietnam in November. The company has the capacity to make 250,000 vehicles a year.
Foreign EV makers hesitate to dive into the scooter-reliant Southeast Asian country, given the lukewarm demand for vehicles from market leader VinFast, which delivered 7,400 EVs in 2022.
“GSM will officially commence the electric taxi and electric cars and motorbikes leasing services from April 2023, with an expected investment of up to 10,000 cars and 100,000 motorbikes,” said the statement issued by Vingroup, Vietnam’s biggest company by market capitalization. VinFast also aims to sell shares in the U.S., which would make it the sole Vietnamese company with a U.S. listing.
Be says its technology platform is used by nearly 10 million customers and hundreds of thousands of drivers.