The VF-8 electric vehicle from VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker producing electric cars and SUVs, is displayed at their showroom in Santa Monica, California, on September 13, 2022.
CNN  — 

Vietnamese electric vehicle company Vinfast is already more valuable than Ford (F) and GM (GM), based on its stock price, despite just entering the US market. But you may not have even heard of it. Here’s what it’s all about, and what’s been happening with it.

Enthusiastic investors pushed VinFast stock up 270% on its first trading day, before falling about 19% Wednesday. Those investors currently own only 1% of the automaker, though. The sprawling Vietnamese conglomerate, VinGroup, owns the rest.

But VinFast’s bold entry into the US hasn’t been smooth. For one thing, when critics got the chance to drive the company’s first US-bound product, the VF8 electric SUV, the resulting reviews weren’t what any automaker would hope for.

Several of the headlines were particularly blunt. “Simply unacceptable,” read a headline from Road & Track.”Yikes,” said a headline from InsideEVs. “Return to sender,” wrote MotorTrend atop its review of the EV.

“The ride was really stiff, the quality of materials inside the car was very bad. There were panel gaps that were mismatching. There were creaks that we heard from the windshield,” said Miguel Cortina, an editor with MotorTrend. “A lot of issues in the quality of the car, in the way that it drove.”

Not every outlet was quite so unkind. Arstecnica called the VF8 a “shaky but promising US debut.”

VinFast seemingly took in at least some of the criticism. In a recent blog post, the company acknowledged that critics and customers had “identified areas in which we could better adapt to U.S. consumer preferences.” In response, VinFast is making software upgrades which the company did not detail.

The VF-8 electric vehicle from VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker producing electric cars and SUVs, is displayed at their showroom in Santa Monica, California, on September 13, 2022.

Some of the problems journalists reported in the VF8, like issues with navigation and blind spot monitoring, could be fixed with software, said Cortina, but others will require improvements in manufacturing.

Newness doesn’t entirely excuse the poor critical response. Other EV makers, such as Tesla (TSLA), Rivian and Lucid, earned glowing reviews and even awards with their first products. And VinFast had the advantage of having built vehicles before, albeit relatively few and not for the highly competitive US market. VinFast was only founded in 2017 and unveiled its first vehicles, two gasoline-powered sedans, at the Paris Motor Show in 2018.

Not long after, the company decided it would make and sell only electric vehicles.

Other car companies, like South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, ultimately succeeded in the US despite starting out with products that were notable for quality issues. These examples suggest determined automakers can recover from a bad start.

In 2022, VinFast sold 24,000 cars globally. That’s about as many as Rivian produced that year. By comparison, Volkswagen Group sold 8.3 million vehicles in 2022 and Ford sold 4.2 million.

In the US, VinFast is currently only selling its VF8 electric SUV in California through 13 company-owned showrooms. The larger VinFast VF9 is expected to be available later this year, with the smaller VF6 and VF7 SUVs coming some time next year, as the company begins offering its products in more US markets.

There is seemingly no industry in which VinGroup will not involve itself. It operates technology companies including VinSmart, VinBigData, VinBrain, and VinAI, among others. Vinmec operates hospitals, while Vinhomes is just one of VinGroup’s real estate companies. VinGroup boasts that its not-for-profit VinSchool, serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, is now the largest school system in Vietnam. Once students have graduated they can move on to VinUni, VinGroup’s college and, on vacation, families can go to a VinWonders amusement park.

The company claims to account for 1.1% of Vietnam’s gross domestic product. In 2022, VinGroup earned 12.8 trillion Vietnamese dong in profit, equal to about $535.7 million, on about 102 trillion dong, or almost $5.3 billion, in total revenue.

For now, VinFast is a small part of a much larger company. But, clearly, VinGroup has big plans, presuming it can past some early quality issues.