Home Lifestyle Marketing major takes deep dive into new EV makerfrom her native Vietnam

Marketing major takes deep dive into new EV makerfrom her native Vietnam

Livian Mai, a native of Vietnam and student at Wingate, co-authored a nine-page article with Economics Professor Kristin Stowerecently in the Research in Business and Economics Journal. Photos by Wingate University

Livian Mai is all about marketing – including marketing herself. The rising senior, who describes herself as “a detail-oriented, data-driven and purpose-led individual highly adept at trend tracking with a versatile skill set,” can now add “published economics researcher” to her profile.

Mai grew up in Vietnam and came to the U.S. at age 16. As part of her Honors College research, she co-authored a nine-page article with Economics Professor Kristin Stowe. “VinFast’s Economic Impact in North Carolina” was published recently in the Research in Business and Economics Journal.

For Mai, the chance to research the potential economic impact of a new electric-vehicle manufacturing plant hit home in more ways than one. The VinFast plant, which is slated to begin production as early as 2025, will be the first automobile-manufacturing facility in North Carolina. A part of the global Vingroup, the company’s current car plant is on Cat Hai Island, just 25 miles from Livian’s hometown of Hai Phong.

“Vingroup is a gigantic conglomerate in Vietnam, with grocery stores, hotels, resorts and now cars,” Mai says. “It was the perfect topic for me to research using IMPLAN, because of the Vietnamese manufacturing plant being in my hometown.”

Learning how to use IMPLAN – a modeling software that uses annual, regional data to predict how economic changes will affect a given economy – is a key component of Stowe’s Economic Impact Analysis (ECON 412) class. So Mai set to work gathering any information she could find regarding VinFast.

She pored over the company’s websites, in both Vietnamese and English, to see how it was marketing cars in Vietnam and in the U.S., and to compare its marketing strategies to those of U.S.-based companies.

“For VinFast, such a small company, to step into the U.S. market just five years after the company started, I was very proud but also hesitant about this decision,” Mai says. “I looked at how Toyota and Mercedes approach the market and researched to see if VinFast used the same method. I used a lot of online journals and scholarly articles in Vietnamese and English.”

She was fascinated by the VinFast approach to building electric vehicles, which includes a battery-leasing option and, Mai says, a more socially responsible business model. She was also impressed by the company’s decision to become a naming rights partner of the Ironman triathlon series.

“VinFast has been innovative with its marketing strategies, not just focusing on the car aspect but thinking outside the box about how they can become more known in the athletic world,” Mai says.

As much as she enjoyed analyzing the marketing approach, it was numbers she needed for the economic analysis.

“I want to become a marketer with an economic emphasis,” Mai says. “For me, it’s not just about creativity, but it’s about sharing with stakeholders and potential investors that I know the numbers behind the ideas.”


Using the data she gathered about VinFast – details about the construction of the plant, projected numbers of employees, the number of vehicles the company expects to manufacture each year, etc. – Mai used IMPLAN to help her project not only the direct impacts VinFast will have on the Chatham County regional economy, but also the indirect effects originating from business-to-business transactions in the supply chain and the induced effects that come from household spending of employee income.

Kristin Stowe

Over the Christmas break, Stowe took the analysis Mai had done and used IMPLAN to run models that were even more complex. Their ultimate goal was to assess whether North Carolina’s $1.2 billion incentive package for the EV plant was a solid investment.

“Assuming that resources are easily available and that there is consumer demand for the vehicles, the estimated tax income generated by VinFast’s operations should repay the public coffers within five years,” they concluded.

If all goes according to plan, they expect VinFast’s economic effect on Chatham County during its first three years to exceed $15.3 billion. They project the construction phase of the plant will create 9,070 jobs per year over two and a half years. Annual ongoing operations will provide 7,500 jobs directly and 17,484 in total.

For every construction job, an additional 0.18 jobs are generated in the local economy, Mai and Stowe explain in their analysis of the ripple effect that VinFast could create. Every manufacturing job produces an additional 0.26 jobs. Even so, Stowe and Mai were quick to point out the difficulty of making exact forecasts about a company’s success before it opens its doors.

“One of my goals is for the students to become more aware,” Stowe says. “They should not take every number, every statement that they see in the news or on social media as necessarily accurate, and should be able to evaluate what they hear. Another goal of the class is to help students improve their analytical writing and presentation skills.”

Mai says the research helped her in those and other ways.

“Before taking the course, I never really thought about how construction of a new business could impact my life. When I studied the economic impact using IMPLAN, it helped me understand,” she says. “It is really intriguing to me, to be able to learn how to use well-trusted data from multiple government and economic databases to be able to make projections.”

Now when she sees a new restaurant come to town, what pops into her mind is not just whether she’ll like the food.

“I see the sign for a new restaurant and I’m thinking about how many jobs it will generate and the tax implications,” she says. “It is really important to think more broadly about these things. Doing research has provided me with a more careful approach when it comes to economic analysis. I know I need to analyze things from different perspectives. Doing this project helped me to gain research and analytical skills.”

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