In the stock market’s latest head-scratching move, shares of Vietnamese electric vehicle (EV) maker VinFast Auto (VFS -15.02%) have soared after their initial public offering (IPO). In fact, the stock nearly quadrupled last week and has traded as high as $93 per share.
It has since settled around $53, which gives it a mind-boggling market capitalization of $123 billion — more than Ford and General Motors combined, while selling only a small fraction of the vehicles.
But there’s something interesting for investors to note in VinFast’s prospectus. Black Spade, a special-purpose acquisition company that merged with VinFast for it to be listed on the Nasdaq, compared the EV maker to a competitor. And the comparison might temper investor enthusiasm.
The next Tesla? Not so fast.
In VinFast’s prospectus, Black Spade’s board of directors did an analysis that compared the Vietnamese automaker to eight public EV companies: Tesla, Li Auto, Lucid Group, NIO, Polestar, XPeng, Fisker, and Rivian.
Right off the bat, the analysis discarded Tesla as a fitting comparison, since that company is mature and has significantly larger scale, while also being the only EV maker on the list to generate positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in 2022.
NIO, Li Auto, and XPeng were discarded next since the companies operate in different regions and had substantially more revenue in 2022. Next, Rivian was excluded as the best comparison because the company currently focuses on trucks and SUVs, while VinFast has focused on scooters, passenger cars, and buses (although it is preparing a long list of SUVs).
With all of those competitors quickly discarded, Black Spade’s board determined the closest comparable company to VinFast — based on similar revenue scale, and a global target market with a near-term focus on the U.S. — was none other than Lucid Group.
Why is that a problem?
While investors shouldn’t draw any direct conclusions about how VinFast’s stock will trade based on Lucid’s price movement, it should be noted that Lucid’s IPO price was $15 per share, reached an all-time high of over $55, and currently is a paltry $6.34.
More importantly than how Lucid has traded since its IPO, investors should look at how the EV maker is faring in a U.S. market with increasing EV competition. In fact, while Rivian has managed to stay out of the EV price war (its vehicle segments don’t compete directly with Tesla’s passenger car segments), Lucid hasn’t been able to claim the same.
In mid-July, Lucid reported that its second-quarter production fell 6% sequentially to 2,173, while its deliveries remained flat. The news sent the stock down roughly 12% at the time.
And the company trimmed its 2023 production forecast and reported first-quarter revenue that was lower than expected after Tesla’s price war (and rising interest rates) put a dent in its financial results. That trend continued in the second quarter with Lucid missing estimates as deliveries slowed.
Lucid responded by slashing prices on its Air luxury sedans by as much as $12,400 in early August. Tesla’s price war, for those that compete directly in its segments, has caused major discomfort for EV start-ups that were already burning cash and reporting losses. In fact, Lucid’s second-quarter net loss widened to $764.2 million, compared to $555.3 million during the prior year’s quarter.
Don’t buy into hype
Some investors who simply look at VinFast’s stock performance since its IPO will be tempted to buy into the hype. Those investors should take a step back and realize the EV maker is embarking on a massive challenge in expanding out of its core Vietnam market.
VinFast is trying to break into a competitive U.S. market for EVs, and it’s doing so as a nearly unknown brand with questionable vehicle quality. Its most comparable competitor, Lucid Group, has been struggling mightily amid Tesla’s price war and continues to burn cash, and it has been called a “broken growth story” by CFRA Research analyst Garrett Nelson.
Only time will tell if VinFast can turn itself into a wild EV success story, but investors would be wise not to buy into the hype anytime soon. There are plenty more-stable traditional automakers making the transition to an EV future, and other better positioned EV-only manufacturers.
Daniel Miller has positions in Ford Motor Company and General Motors. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Nio and Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors and recommends the following options: long January 2025 $25 calls on General Motors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.