Of the major companies coming to North Carolina in the next few years, two spark the most skepticism among readers: Boom Supersonic and VinFast.
It’s not due to their lack of resources or ambition. Boom plans to build the next commercial supersonic jet on the grounds of the Greensboro airport while VinFast, part of a major Vietnamese conglomerate, wants to break into the U.S. auto market with a fleet of fully electric SUVs.
What makes Boom and VinFast risky as economic pillars for the state is that neither has a track record of making or selling the things they’re promising to make and sell.
Boom’s supersonic jet, called Overture, remains a prototype. VinFast hopes, pending EPA approval, to deliver its first cars to U.S. drivers later this month. Two years ago, VinFast was only making gas-powered cars in Vietnam. Seven years ago, the company didn’t exist.
Compare VinFast and Boom to Apple and Toyota, the latter two also planning to bring large operations to North Carolina this decade. Nobody doubts whether Toyota can sell cars or Apple can sell phones, laptops, watches or Ted Lasso. That’s not a guarantee their developments in the state (Toyota in Randolph County and Apple in Wake) will go off without a hitch. But when I’ve written about Apple or Toyota, no one sends me snarky emails with subject lines like “Vin… not so fast.”
So, people are more prone to question VinFast, and in recent months, the company has raised a few more questions. It’s paused its unique battery leasing model in the U.S., cut around 100 jobs in North America, and delayed its first delivery of cars as it updated its software to improve mileage range.
Should any of this add fuel to the preexisting doubt?
A VinFast official told the News & Observer the adjustments are evidence of the company “adapting to market changes.” But Brett Smith, a researcher at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (aka CAR) said there’s “absolutely cause for concern” about the direction of VinFast.
None of this spells doom for the company, Smith said, but it all might augur the challenges VinFast will face as it navigates the emerging EV landscape within a hyper-competitive American auto market.
p.s. — On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality permit to VinFast, meaning VinFast is only waiting on two permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the company can commence building in Chatham County.
You can always go… downtown (soon)
Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the world, is still building its first-ever downtown. Called Hub RTP, the area does already offer shops, a couple dining options, and plenty of space. It’s boldest plans lay ahead.
When the park opened in the late 1950s, companies didn’t really want employees to stick around when the day was through (lest trade secrets be swapped.) But today, both businesses and workers desire collaboration and communal spaces.
Short Stuff: New jobs in Durham, new office in Durham
A Finnish manufacturer of electric vehicle chargers, Kempower is coming to Durham with a pledge to create 306 new jobs within the next five years. By 2030, the company anticipates employing 600 people in Durham, a Kempower spokesperson told The News & Observer.
Clorox has opened another building at the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham. Clorox employs around 550 in the Triangle between its Durham campus and its Burt’s Bees plant in Morrisville.
National Tech Happenings
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.
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