VinFast wants to become a global automotive force, and it has hired a globally recognised CEO to get it there.
Michael Lohscheller — most recently the head of the Opel and Vauxhall brands — will soon moved to Vietnam to become CEO of VinFast Global, the automotive division of large Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup.
He will be “responsible for scaling up VinFast’s operations and presence around the globe”, as well as turning it into a “global smart electric car company”.
The automaker will also expand beyond Vietnam into new export markets, including the US, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
VinFast made headlines in Australia when it purchased Holden’s Lang Lang proving grounds in November 2020 to complement the design and development facility it setup in Melbourne in June that year.
It’s unclear what part Australia will play in VinFast’s global expansion, though, as the Melbourne office was closed in May 2021.
Although widely credited for turning Opel/Vauxhall from a consistently loss-making operation under GM to profit machine after Groupe PSA’s purchase, Lohscheller will have quite a task ahead of him.
According to Automotive News, VinFast sold around 30,000 cars in Vietnam in 2020, and is forecasting sales of about 45,000 this year.
VinFast’s range currently includes four vehicles, all based on previous-generation cars from other manufacturers.
The volume seller is the Fadil, a lightly reworked Opel Karl hatchback, that starts at 337 million dong ($19,800).
There’s a big jump up in price to the next two models, the 882 million dong ($52,000) Lux A2.0 based on the old BMW 5 Series, and the 1.1 billion dong ($66,400) Lux SA2.0 derived from the last-generation X5.
Topping off the range is the 3.8 billion dong ($224,000) President, which marries the SA2.0’s underpinnings with a 339kW/624Nm 6.2-litre LT1 V8 from GM.
At the beginning of 2021, VinFast revealed three electric cars that will reportedly go on sale in 2022.
The range begins with EV-only VF31 small crossover.
The mid-size VF32 and large VF33 crossovers will be available with a variety of electric drivetrains, as well as 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo.
Lohscheller began his working career in 1992 at Jungheinrich, a firm specialising in forklifts and other warehouse equipment, as a financial controller.
After a year at DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems, he joined the board of Mitsubishi Motors Europe in 2001 as its chief financial officer (CFO).
In 2004 Lohscheller jumped over to Volkswagen, starting out as the head of group marketing and sales before being appointed Volkswagen Group of America’s CFO.
Opel, then still under GM ownership, hired Lohscheller in 2012 to be its CFO. After Groupe PSA bought the troubled automaker from GM in 2017, Lohscheller was appointed Opel/Vauxhall CEO.
Unable to turn a profit since the beginning of the millennium, GM’s “European patient” lost the automaker billions of euros.
By aggressively cutting fixed costs, reducing production costs, and trimming its workforce, Lohscheller was able to put Opel/Vauxhall back in the black within a year.
He also oversaw the development of the brand’s new design language, and its commitment to be an EV-only brand by 2028.
Not long after the EV announcement, Lohscheller resigned his post as Opel and Vauxhall CEO to “pursue a new challenge outside Stellantis”.