Vietnamese authorities are reportedly harassing a citizen for criticizing Vietnam's first major automaker, VinFast, on Facebook. Despite well-documented problems with VinFast's business and products, it seems the company is trying to quash bad press by calling the police on its detractors.
Sonnie Tran is a 37-year-old Vietnamese social media personality who has built a following for his posts commentating on VinFast. Until December, Tran posted prolifically about alleged problems with VinFast in Vietnamese-language business groups. Topics include questioning the venture's financial integrity, alleging VinFast hides debt using shell companies, calling out misleading sales numbers, and claiming that VinFast outsourced its design to China and India rather than working with Pininfarina, as it's publicized.
It's not just Tran that's making these claims, either. Other Vietnamese social media users have posted similar allegations on platforms like Linkedin and Reddit. It has also come to light that VinFast's sales numbers are inflated by selling to other companies owned by Vingroup, VinFast's parent company.
Now, Tran has been repeatedly detained by police in Ho Chi Minh City according to BNN Breaking, which reports Tran spent 35 hours in interrogation at a police station in December. This occurred over at least four separate days according to a Reddit post. Tran has reportedly been questioned regarding his motives for criticizing VinFast, with police searching for evidence of a nefarious backer for his activities. The Drive has reached out to VinFast's U.S. communications team about these reports, and will update this story should we learn anything.
Officers have reportedly seized Tran's electronic devices and copied their data, justifying it all under Article 331 of Vietnamese criminal code, which reportedly forbids harming the interests of others—from the individual to the state, and everything in between. That apparently includes big, blatantly problem-ridden businesses like VinFast.
Tran isn't the only person VinFast has called police on for negative press. In May 2021, the company tried to have cops harass one of its customers for posting a YouTube video complaining of problems with their car and the difficulty of getting warranty work done on it. U.S. media outlets reported similar quality problems when they drove the VF8, whose debut on the U.S. market was key to the company's overinflated stock valuation. (Its value has since fallen 80 percent.)
VinFast's biggest problem however is that as of Q3 2023, its most recently reported quarter, it's still losing hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter. Swat as many of your critics as you want, but you'll never make it if you don't turn a profit in the first place.
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