Newsflash: Suzuki presenteert hybride trio


+++ AUDI has already been moving toward futuristic vehicle interiors, stripping traditional buttons and dials out of models such as the A6, A7, Q8 and facelifted Q7, and replacing them with its latest MMI touch response technology system, which emphasizes three large LED screens. In my A6 and A7 first drive, I concluded that “the level of digitization is so great that the car seems to have achieved a paradigm of sorts, one that makes the A6 and A7 more iPhone than car”. But that’s likely just the beginning of the brand’s evolution of the driver-machine interface. Design boss Marc Lichte dished on what’s next for Audi, and it sounds like we can wave goodbye to that lone analog holdout, the beloved volume knob. As for other interior changes, Lichte said the next generation of MMI will feature an augmented reality heads-up display. Though he offered no further details on what exactly that would entail, it will apparently coincide with a consolidation of the digital gauge cluster, which will get smaller and show less information; good news to those who believe modern digital displays are too distracting to drivers. Lichte’s vision is to replace the 2 touchscreens in the center stack with a larger single screen. As I noted in the aforementioned A6 and A7 review, Audi opted to do away with dials and buttons in favor of 3 large LED screens, including a 12.3-inch full-color display and an all-screen center stack that replace 43 buttons from the previous generation with a 10.3 inch infotainment and 8.6 inch climate control touchscreens. Audi also made the door handles electronic, installed voice command and 3D mapping systems, and made it possible for users to user their finger to write out commands, similar to modern tablet cash registers. Lichte also hinted that bigger design changes are in store as Audi shifts toward electric vehicles. Starting probably with the launch of the e-Tron GT late next year, which will be based on the Porsche Taycan platform, Audi will give its electric cars (as opposed to its SUVs) very low ride heights, thanks to the newfound ability to design them with low floors. It’s similar to how Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior VP of global design, has described the design opportunities presented by electric vehicles and the lack of a need to accommodate a combustion engine. This includes shifting the cabin forward and elongating it to expand interior space. +++ 

+++ BMW will keep on building the i3 until 2024, a company spokesman has told. While the i3 was BMW’s first serious foray into the world of electric vehicles (and those with range-extenders), it never sold in particularly high numbers. Additionally, it has been outdone by more affordable alternatives offering better range in recent years. Nonetheless, the German car manufacturer clearly thinks it can make a business case for it. Currently, the i3 is sold with a 42.2 kWh battery pack, good for a range between 285 km and 310 km under the WLTP cycle. When first launched, it had a compact 22 kWh battery pack, but that was increased to 33.2 kWh in 2016 and then increased by a further 10 kWh. Now all BMW i3 models ship with a 42.2 kWh battery following the marque’s recent decision to discontinue the Range Extender version in Europe. To ensure the i3 keeps up with the competition, its battery pack is expected to be updated once again and benefit from another boost in capacity and range. The improved i3 will likely be introduced at the end of 2020 or in early 2021 and remain unchanged for the next 4 years. In 2024, the i3 will likely be killed off for good. By that time, BMW will have a number of more up-to-date EVs in its range, including an all-electric 1-Series, the long-awaited i4, the iX2 plus iX3 and the iNext, so the absence of the i3 won’t be felt. +++ 

+++ Looking for a new car, Yang Zhibo considered an electric but balked at prices that are thousands of dollars higher after Beijing wound down multibillion-dollar subsidies that made CHINA the biggest market for the technology. The 27-year-old employee of a beverage distributor picked a gasoline-powered Chevrolet instead. “I am afraid the technology is not mature and the price is too high”, Yang said. China’s leaders are promoting electric cars to help transform the country into a creator of profitable technologies, but sales are stalling as thousands of buyers make a similar choice. That is squeezing automakers that are spending heavily on development as regulators shift the burden to them by imposing mandatory sales quotas. The wrenching transition is revealing the difficulty of luring mainstream buyers to a fledgling, expensive technology. An industry shakeout lies ahead as novice Chinese producers that rushed into the market are forced to merge or close. Development costs are so high that global competitors including Volkswagen and Ford are teaming up to split the burden. “China is recognizing you don’t need 400 EV companies. You need maybe 20”, said Bill Russo, CEO of consulting firm Automobilityand a former Chrysler executive. “That means some have to fall off the competitive landscape”. In November, purchases of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs and sedans tumbled 43.7 % from a year earlier to 95.000 units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales for the first 11 months of the year were up 1.3 % at just over 1 million vehicles. China accounts for half of electric vehicle sales worldwide, making any change in its market critical for the global industry. Worldwide, EV sales were up 13 % over a year earlier in the 10 months through October at 1.7 million, according to Bernstein Research. Sales in North America were off 2 % at 301.000 while Europe rose 37 % to 395.000. In China, about 70 % of the 1.2 million electric or gasoline-electric hybrid models sold over the past year went to government and company fleets, according to Bernstein. Almost 500,000 bought by consumers were in cities that offer incentives such as being exempt from registration fees or license plate waiting lists. “Few real consumers buy EVs except when forced by regulations”, Bernstein researchers Robin Zhu, Luke Hong and Xuan Ji said in a report. Until June, combined subsidies to buyers from the national and some city governments including Beijing and Shanghai could run as high as 50,000 yuan ($7,100) for vehicles with the longest range. Industry analysts say one reason for the slump is that anyone who wanted an electric rushed to buy it before subsidies ended. Sales spiked 85 % in April over a year earlier. Yang, the car buyer in Beijing, said prices of electric cars he looked at were at least 20.000 yuan ($2.800) more than a comparable gasoline model. That is a big gap in a market where half of cars sell for less than 100.000 yuan ($14.200). “I also worry that when an electric car has a problem, it will cost me a fortune to repair”, said Yang. Under the new system, automakers must earn credits for selling electrics or buy them from competitors that exceed their quota. Volkswagen and Ford announced a deal in June to share development costs of electric and self-driving technology. Every global brand has launched a joint venture with a Chinese partner to develop lower-cost models for the local market. Global brands also face competition from local success stories including BYD and state-owned BAIC. BAIC says it sold 160.000 pure-electric vehicles last year and BYD says it sold 152.000. Battery supplier CATL is competing with Panasonic and LG Chem to be the industry’s biggest global producer. “There will be a few foreign companies that stay in the game, but there will be a few leading Chinese companies that can dominate”, said Russo. The heavy spending on EVs comes as cash flow is under pressure from weak demand for gasoline-powered models. Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans for the 11 months through November were off 10.5 % from a year earlier at just over 1.9 million. That puts the global industry’s biggest market on track to shrink for a second year. Despite the end of subsidies, Beijing still is spending heavily to promote electrics. State-owned utilities and other companies have blanketed China with charging points. As of June, the total number installed had passed 1 million, according to the Cabinet’s National Energy Administration. That included 410.000 on the street and 590.000 in homes or parking garages. Regulators also are pressing operators of delivery, taxi and other fleets to use electrics. The country’s biggest ride-hailing service, Didi Chuxing, says it is the biggest global operator of electric vehicles, with more than 600.000 in its fleet. A rival service launched by automaker Geely, called Cao Cao, says its entire 30.000 vehicle fleet in 30 cities is electric. Wang Xiuli, a mother of one who works in marketing in Beijing, feels the pressure of regulations that are pushing electric sales even without subsidies. Wang, 30, bought a gasoline-powered Skoda this year because a BYD or BAIC electric cost thousands of dollars more. But she couldn’t get a Beijing license plate due to limits imposed to control congestion; curbs that are waived for buyers of electrics. “My next car should be an electric one”, she said. “Even though it will cost more, I have no other way but to buy one”. +++ 

+++ As the global auto industry faces a lengthy decline in sales, automakers are desperately searching for new growth engines in a rapidly changing market. Like many other automakers, DAIMLER believes that the key to survival is partnering with start-ups across the world with innovative ideas, which could help the company transform into a mobility company. In pursuing that initiative, the German automotive company believes that South Korea is an important market that can provide some of the best ideas and human resources it needs. Philipp Gneiting, head of open innovation at Daimler Group, says: “Nowadays, it’s a no-brainer for an automotive company to collaborate with start-ups. For Mercedes-Benz, open innovation is finding promising ideas and embracing them, and we really see potential in doing that by working with start-ups’ technologies”. Since 2016, Daimler Group has operated a platform named “Startup Autobahn”, which serves as a way for the automotive group to scout start-ups with new mobility items. The program has so far identified around 5.000 start-ups, had 70 of them do test runs and applied technologies from 15 for real-use on Mercedes-Benz products. “This may look like a small number, but that’s perfectly fine with us”, Gneiting said. “Automotive innovation sometimes takes years, and there are internal regulations and high standards we have set that need to be met”. To raise the probability of finding good ideas that can be of real use for Mercedes-Benz, Daimler has also hosted numerous competitions and fairs that invite students and start-ups to compete for prizes and a chance to work with the German automaker. Now, the German automotive group has expanded the search to Korea by opening its first ever start-up competition in the country. Gneiting said hosting one in Korea was only a matter of choosing when rather than why, as his company saw the country as one of six important markets with promising potential. Other promising markets are the United States, Israel, China, India and Singapore, he said. “South Korea is situated at the very front of innovation”, the Startup Autobahn head said. “You have 5G obviously, and that’s a big advantage. To tell you a secret, there is no 5G in Germany”. Gneiting thinks that Korea has a unique socioeconomic situation that allows for innovation to be realized more quickly. “You have such strong legacy corporations here, and they are highly innovative players in many global fields”, he said. “When that is the case, start-ups can grow as well. The country also has so much competence, high standard of education and infrastructural services. Seoul is also a megacity that is able to support most needs of start-ups with brilliant ideas”. But as start-ups and large corporations like Daimler Group collaborate for projects, Gneiting says that communication and coming to an understanding of both sides’ needs can prove challenging. “The obvious challenge is that start-ups have very a different business base, and bridging the 2 worlds together is a challenge”, he said. “My jobs is to moderate between these 2 worlds. We try to translate different sets of expectations to overcome differences and combine the best of both worlds”. And as more promising start-ups rise and increase their presence in markets, Gneiting said that granting more flexibility to new players in terms of regulations while finding ways for traditional firms to survive will be key. “If I ask, for example, a German start-up whether regulatory conditions perfectly fit, I’m positive that they will say there always is a potential for more flexibility and improvement”, he said. “I think it’s always a trade-off for the government to foster good growth conditions for start-ups while safeguarding the ones in place. Germany also struggled in that field, and there’s always conflict”. +++ 

+++ At ground zero of the Paris climate accord, FRANCE is backing policies to promote electric cars and charging stations as a way to lower carbon emissions and support the domestic industry. The government has to tread carefully after cars emerged as a flash point during the massive Yellow Vest demonstrations that began against a fuel tax. Protesters said it said would hurt low-wage earners who could not afford new vehicles, let alone electric ones. In the nascent market, Renault’s compact Zoe model has emerged as France’s bestselling full-electric vehicle so far this year with a 43 % market share, ahead of the Model 3 and Nissan’s Leaf, according to consultancy Inovev. With 35.000 units sold in Europe in the first 9 months of the year, the Zoe still lags far behind the Model 3, which registered nearly 63.000. The state gives as much as €6,000 plus a conversion bonus to buyers scrapping an old clunker for an electric car. In the greater Paris region, the local government has further sweetened the offer, with subsidies reaching as much as €14,500 when central and regional government contributions are combined and the buyer has a low income. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI said it has delivered the first batch of 20 Ioniq Electric cars to Indonesia, entering the ride-hailing market in the Southeast Asian country in partnership with Grab. The South Korean carmaker and Grab will operate ride-hailing services in Jakarta with the electric version of the compact starting early next year. They plan to expand the number of vehicles in operation by the end of the year. The Ioniq EV is capable of running 271 kilometers per single charge. It can be recharged to 80 % in less than 1 hour if a highspeed battery charger is used. The EV ride-hailing service is expected to attract interest in the electric vehicle market in the Southeast Asian country. Hyundai and its sister company Kia invested $275 million in Grab to build new mobility services with EVs. The Korean auto giant has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian government to build its first manufacturing facility in the Southeast Asian region. The planned plant in Indonesia will be capable of producing 150.000 cars a year, the company said. +++ 

+++ The wait for an all-electric MERCEDES-BENZ in the world’s No. 2 auto market just got longer. The German luxury automaker will delay the U.S. launch of its first EV, a compact crossover, by at least a year, Mercedes told dealers. The US debut of the EQ C has been pushed back to 2021. It was expected to arrive at U.S. dealerships in the first quarter of next year. Mercedes blamed the stateside delay on strong demand for the EQ C in Europe. “In a recent direction from Daimler, it is a strategic decision to first support the growing customer demand for the EQ C in Europe”, the automaker said. The urgency to meet European demand ratcheted up after the EU Parliament mandated in April a 37.5 % cut in new-vehicle emissions by 2030. That means the industry must slash emissions levels to roughly 60 grams per kilometer on average (a dramatic reduction) or face steep noncompliance fines. The delay in the US means Mercedes will have to sit on the sidelines as rivals Tesla, BMW, Audi and Jaguar take the early lead in meeting domestic demand for EVs. There is a “huge appetite” for EVs in some U.S. states, said Jeff Aiosa, owner of Carriage House of New London, a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Connecticut. “Any delays are a setback that keeps us from being competitive”, Aiosa said, “If you’re a California dealer, and knowing that over 50 % of Teslas are sold in California, I would be disappointed”. The EQ C is the first of a fleet of 10 EVs the automaker expects to launch by 2022. Jaguar and Audi launched electric crossovers this year. Next year, BMW will introduce the iX3,  a midsize SUV; while Tesla will launch a crossover version of its widely popular Model 3. Mercedes is building the EQ C at a plant in Bremen, Germany, where output is slated to double to 200 units per day, thus doubling annual capacity to around 50,000 per year. +++ 

+++ French shareholders in the planned merger of PSA and FCA are seeking reassurances that they will retain a numerical advantage on a combined board if CEO Carlos Tavares leaves, 2 sources close to PSA said. The 2 companies are finalising talks after announcing a plan for a $50 billion merger of equals in October that would create the world’s 4th largest automaker. Under the terms of the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), PSA and FCA would each have 5 seats on the board of the merged entity. An 11th seat would go to Tavares, who is chief executive of PSA and is set to take on the same role in the new group. French shareholders view the seat held by Tavares as giving them the de-facto role of senior partners and want to know this advantage would be preserved in the event of him leaving. There is no evidence that the issue has surfaced in talks as an obstacle to the deal and a source close to FCA said the draft agreement over the new group’s governance was not being questioned and that there was no issue delaying the deal. PSA has called a meeting of its supervisory board for Tuesday which could discuss the FCA deal, 2 separate sources had said. Both firms have said they were confident of reaching a merger deal by the end of the year, but the sources said the French partners were seeking clarification on the issue before a MoU sealing the deal is signed. Shareholder advisory company Proxinvest said in a note that the French group’s shareholders were paying “an implicit control premium while there was no real control of PSA on FCA”. +++ 

+++ RENAULT has offered the chairman of Volkswagen’s Seat brand, Luca de Meo, the job of chief executive. De Meo would initially become CEO of Renault for 2 years before taking over responsibility for the group’s alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi. had reported previously that De Meo was a possible candidate for the top job, along with interim chief executive Clotilde Delbos and Patrick Koller, the Franco-German CEO of car parts maker Faurecia, who was also tipped for the role. De Meo’s appointment would help end a prolonged period of turbulence for the French carmaker, which has been struggling to recover from the high-profile arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn a year ago. Ghosn, who helped forge the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, was arrested in Japan last November on financial misconduct charges that he denies. Financial chief Delbos took over the reins at Renault after former CEO Thierry Bollore was ousted in October in a purge of executives associated with the Ghosn-era, a move intended to help patch up the strained alliance with Nissan. Italian-born De Meo has served as the chairman of Seat’s executive committee for 4 years, overseeing a resurgence in the Barcelona-based company’s sales and boosting its prominence within the Volkswagen group. +++

+++ Overturning a wage deal clinched in June, unionized workers at RENAULT SAMSUNG have voted to hold a sit-in protest, according to members of the union Wednesday, although the automaker said it would continue with the labor-management negotiations which kicked off in September. Of more than 2,000 unionized workers at the South Korean unit of the French automaker Renault, 66.2 % voted to go on strike. The labor union and management had reached a wage deal on June 24, bringing an end to a year-long strike. In the June agreement, they pledged to pursue a win-win cooperation and create a peaceful work environment at its factory in the southern port city of Busan. While the labor union is yet to decide the exact period and scale of the sit-in protest, industry insiders said its decision would lead to further decline in the production rate at the carmaker’s plant. In July, a month after their deal, the labor union asked the company for an 8.01 % increase in wage, additional payment for union members, employment of additional personnel, scrapping of the wage peak system and 4 million won ($3,350) in incentives by the year-end. The negotiations over the latest deal began in September, where the company’s management vowed to come up with its decision by early December during the talks held on November 28. A Renault Samsung representative told that while the management is finalizing its decision, the unionized workers began voting on their own: “But it is not that the labor union will hold a sit-in protest immediately. They just voted to stage a strike, which is separate from continuing negotiations. Whether from the company side or from the unionized workers’ side, if negotiations are necessary, we are going to continue our talks”. According to industry experts, due to the 62 rounds of labor union strikes held from October last year to June this year, Renault Samsung suffered damages worth around 300 billion won, resulting in a major loss of its production schedule of at least 13.000 units. During the strike, operations at its only plant in Busan also halted from April 29 through May 3, following significantly reduced production volume. According to Renault Samsung, the temporary shutdown of its factory came as output volume plunged to as low as 120.000 for domestic sales, while it requires a minimum 200.000 units to be produced annually to keep it going. The company said its priority is to maintain a set level of productivity at the plant, so it can secure certain export models from its parent company Renault. Due to last year’s continued strike, Renault Samsung failed to allocate vehicles for production, following the contract expiry with Nissan due to the “severely hurt relationship with the Renault Group”. As Renault Samsung’s production of Nissan’s X-Trail nears an end in March, the management has been working to achieve production allocation for crossover XM3 (Arkana) for exports from the Renault Group, to compensate for the void. The Nissan X-Trail has been a symbolic model that put Renault Samsung’s Busan plant on track. It sold 227.577 units last year, with the X-Trail accounting for 47 % of the total output and 78 % of its exports. +++ 

+++ Demand for the SKODA Karoq is so strong that the Volkswagen Group has decided to allocate the compact SUV to 2 new plants. The Karoq entered production on December 12 at VW Group’s Nizhny Novgorod plant in Russia, where the model has just been launched alongside the facelifted 2020 Rapid. While the Karoqs built at the Russian plant will supply the local market, Skoda will also assemble the popular model at its Bratislava plant in Slovakia from autumn 2020. The Karoq will become the second Skoda model to be built in Bratislava after the Citigo e iV electric city car. This means the Karoq will be made in 5 plants worldwide: Kvasiny and Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic), Bratislava (Slovakia), Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) and Ningbo (China). The Russian plant assembles completely-knocked-down (CKD) kits for the Karoq, which is the third Skoda model made in Nizhny Novgorod after the Octavia and Kodiaq, while the Bratislava facility will assemble medium-knocked-down (MKD) vehicles. Both will source the painted Karoq bodies from the Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic. The Karoq compact SUV is Skoda’s best-selling model at the moment, with global deliveries already exceeding 137.700 units in the first 11 months of this year. In 2018, the automaker delivered 115.700 units to customers worldwide, with the total number of units built since the model’s launch in October 2017 reaching the 250.000 mark in mid-September 2019. “Demand considerably exceeds supply. Thanks to the production network within Volkswagen Group and the collaboration with our contract manufacturer GAZ in Russia, we can now manufacture additional units of the Karoq and better meet the consistently high demand for this model”, said Michael Öljeklaus, Skoda Auto Board Member for Production and Logistics. The Skoda Karoq will go on sale in Russia from the first quarter of 2020 and will be available in 3 trim levels (Active, Ambition and Style) and with 2 gasoline engines. The standard choice is a 109 hp 1.6-liter MPI naturally aspirated 4-cylinder unit, while a 150 hp 1.4-liter TSI turbo-4 is available as an option. The base engine comes with a 5-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed auto and front-wheel drive, while the TSI is mated to either an 7-speed auto and FWD, or a 6-speed DSG dual-clutch and AWD. +++ 

+++ SUBARU aims to share the basic communications infrastructure with Toyota to accelerate the development of connected cars, Subaru president Tomomi Nakamura said in a recent interview. “It’s better to share the platform”, said the head of Subaru, which is set to become a de facto Toyota group firm. Nakamura pointed out that the 2 automakers are wasting time and money by separately developing similar technologies for connected cars. “We’ll capitalize on the tie-up with Toyota to streamline operations”, he said, adding that securing manpower for research and development of information technologies is becoming increasingly difficult. In September, Subaru agreed to increase Toyota’s voting rights to at least 20 % and become an affiliate of the nation’s leading automaker. Subaru will acquire a stake in Toyota, as well. The 2 companies said the enhanced capital alliance would deepen their long-term partnership. Specifically, the move is aimed at boosting the development of next-generation technologies for CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) cars. In the interview, Nakamura denied that Subaru will entirely rely on Toyota’s CASE technologies. +++ 

+++ SUZUKI will introduce a new 48 volt self-charging hybrid powertrain early next year, which will be offered in the Swift Sport, Vitara and SX4 S-Cross models. The Japanese automaker claims that their new hybrid powertrain will offer up to 20 % lower CO2 emissions, more torque and a 15 % improved fuel economy in the WLTP combined cycle. The new 48 volt hybrid powertrain will directly replace the current 1.4-liter Boosterjet engine offering more power as well, although the company didn’t share any numbers at this point. The newly developed powertrain is very lightweight in its design, with the company claiming a weight penalty of less than 15 kg. It consists of a 48 volt lithium-ion battery, an integrated starter generator (ISG) and a 48V / 12V converter. The system will be attached to the new K14D Boosterjet engine, an improved version of the outgoing unit. The ISG is belt-driven and will assist the petrol engine with extra torque from low down, offering 235 Nm from 2.000 rpm. The battery, together with the converter unit, will be located under the front seats for better weight distribution. The upcoming 48 Volt self-charging hybrid system will also be able to use electric power alone at city speeds below 16 km/h to further improve fuel consumption. Suzuki will announce all the details and specifications of the new 48 Volt hybrid versions of the Swift Sport, Vitara and S-Cross in advance of their launch in Europe, which is planned for March 2020. +++ 

+++ The US auto safety agency said it will investigate a 12th TESLA crash that may be tied to the vehicle’s advanced Autopilot driver assistance system after a Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration special crash investigation program will investigate the December 7 crash of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 on Interstate 95 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the agency confirmed. Autopilot has been engaged in at least 3 fatal US Tesla crashes since 2016. The agency’s special crash investigation team has inspected 12 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident. To date, the agency has completed reports on two of them: a 2016 fatal crash in Florida in which Autopilot was engaged and a prior crash where Autopilot was ruled out as a factor. +++ 

+++ Vietnam isn’t a country you immediately associate with car manufacturing, but the nation’s richest man, billionaire Phan Nhat Vuong, hopes to turn it into one with his local startup VinFast. The VINFAST brand has been steadily growing over the past few years and recently started production of its first 3 vehicles, a hatchback, a sedan and an SUV, while it’s also working on its very first all-electric vehicle. However, that’s not Vuong’s most ambitious goal, as he wants to have entered the American market by 2021. The businessman, who’s worth a touch over $9 billion, will spend as much as $2 billion of his own money to make VinFast successful in the United States. “Our ultimate goal is to create an international brand”, Vuong recently said at the Hanoi headquarters of VinFast’s parent company Vingroup JSC. “It will be a very difficult road and we will have to put in a lot of effort. But there’s only one road ahead”. Vuong is targeting a U.S. launch despite not yet having a company on solid footings, given that VinFast isn’t expected to be profitable for as many as 5 years. What’s more, the company is selling its first 3 models below cost and, according to Vuong, Vingroup will have to spend the equivalent of $777 million annually over the next few years to cover the losses for VinFast. The businessman believes that to make the company successful, it has to grow beyond Vietnam as the local market is simply too small. As such, the entry into the US market will be joined by expansion into Europe and Russia. “We have the desire to build a Vietnamese brand that has a world-class reputation”, Vuong said. “Our biggest challenge is that Vietnamese products do not have an international brand. To many international friends, Vietnam is still a poor, backward country. We will have to find a way to market and prove our products represent a dynamic and developing Vietnam that has reached the highest standards of the world”. +++


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