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Vietnam’s First Real Car Co. Takes Aim at the West

Paris debut planned, U.S. launch could follow.

by on Jul.18, 2018

VinFast turned to Pininfarina to design its new models, the sedan shown in this rendering.

The first “volume” Vietnamese automaker will reveal two new models designed by Pininfarina during the Paris Motor Show this coming October, setting into motion what it hopes will be a global rollout over the next few years.

VinFast, which will be setting up a new “state-of-the-art manufacturing facility” in the northern part of Vietnam plans to launch the two vehicles – an SUV and a sport sedan – in September 2019, though it will initially focus solely on “affluent” buyers in its home country before targeting opportunities elsewhere in Asia and in Western markets.

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“Our show stand will…prominently feature the best of Vietnam, demonstrating the passion and tenacity that we will bring to the global automotive stage,” said James DeLuca, CEO of VinFast Trading and Production LLC. “We have the resources, scalability and commitment to become a significant new player in the global automotive industry.”

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At one time, some manufacturers thought Vietnam might become a major, low-cost base for foreign carmakers looking to gain access to other parts of Asia, much as what happened in Thailand. That approach largely collapsed with the explosive opening of the Chinese market. Vietnam does have a handful of automotive manufacturers, most either producing trucks for the local market or partnering with foreign companies to produce localized versions of global products, but VinFast is the first to target the high volumes that could come from globalization.

VinFast is offering a pair of renderings teasing the products it will debut in Paris – the capital of the country that once ruled what was long known as Indochina. The automaker said the decision to go to the biennial show should “significantly raise the profile of the brand.”

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The Vietnamese public voted on which models they wanted VinFast to produce.

Specific details have yet to be released but the Pininfarina-designed sedan is drawing some comparisons to the Maserati Ghibli, with its strong muscular shoulders and large, V-shaped grille formed by the sweeping LED running lights that plunge into the grille’s center. The SU, meanwhile, has some of the cues of the new Volvo XC40, though it also shares the same, large grille as the VinFast sedan.

While the design might be Italian, the Vietnamese public had some input into the project, the company giving them a range of different models to vote on.  Meanwhile, the start-up carmaker hints that the two new models feature “German technology.”

Pricing hasn’t been released yet, though VinFast’s London-based spokesman Matt Moore told TheDetroitBureau.com that the brand is “aimed at the growing affluence of the Vietnamese middle class, so (they) won’t be cheap cars.”

The vehicles were engineered to meet global standards, Moore noted, and though “the plan is to launch in Vietnam in 2019, they will begin to export to other markets in a few years. But which markets,” he added, “hasn’t been decided yet.” The debut in Paris would suggest the European Union is high on the list, but an American operation could also be in the works at some point.

The two VinFast models will be produced at a new factory in the port city of Haiphong. The third-largest city in the country, it was heavily bombed during the war with the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. It has become a major industrial and trading center for the country.

As for the company itself, VinFast is a subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest privately-held company, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year. It covers a broad range of businesses, including education, healthcare and agriculture and last year had revenues of $3.8 billion.

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