Vietnamese auto startup VinFast used the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show as a backdrop Wednesday night to introduce three new battery-electric vehicles. The rollout followed the debut of two other all-electric models at the Los Angeles Auto Show just two months earlier.
The first of the five battery-electric vehicles will go on sale in the U.S., Canada and Europe later this year. The automaker plans to set up a factory in the U.S. that will have the capacity to produce as many as 250,000 electric vehicles annually by mid-decade, according to VinFast Chairwoman and Global CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy. She is also vice chairwoman of Vingroup, VinFast’s parent company.
Founded barely four years ago, VinFast came to market in 2019 producing a modified version of the BMW X5 SUV. But it plans to end production of that vehicle later this year, said Thuy, telling a CES audience that “VinFast will become the first auto company in the world to cease production of gas-powered vehicles and move entirely to an electric-powered fleet.”
A novel approach
The automaker also announced it will take a novel approach to marketing its BEVs. Customers will purchase the actual vehicles but the battery packs will be leased. Customers will have several package options to choose from. CEO Thuy said that even with the electricity to charge up, they will cost less than what a buyer would spend for gasoline in a conventional vehicle. VinFast also will warranty the vehicles for 10 years and replace any battery that falls below 70% of its original capacity.
The five SUVs VinFast has now revealed cover what the industry refers to as the A, B, C, D and E segments, basically from subcompact to full size. The largest offerings were originally dubbed the VFe-35 and VFe-36 when unveiled in Los Angeles. The range will now go from VF5 to VF9.
The four largest models, the VinFast VF6, VF7, VF8 and VF9, will be sold in the United States. The little VF5 will be limited to Europe and Asia, officials told TheDetroitBureau.
Details to come
Few details were revealed during the CES event, but the original two offerings shown in Los Angeles will push into the near-luxury segment and VinFast promises to offer more standard equipment than competing brands. Range is expected to come in north of 300 miles, former CEO Michael Lohscheller said in L.A.
On Wednesday, Thuy said the VF8 will start at $41,000 — excluding delivery fees and the cost of the battery lease. The VF9 will start at $56,000.
At launch, the models will be offered with semi-autonomous Level 2+ driving capabilities, according to VinFast Chief Technology Officer Hong Sang Bae. The automaker expects to upgrade to Level 3 and even Level 4 capabilities in the coming years. At introduction, they also will be offered with a variety of advanced driving assistance systems, such as forward collision warning and auto braking and auto lane changing. Automated parking and Summon Mode are also on the list.
VinFast also said it will offer a suite of infotainment functions, including the ability to handle scheduling and even videoconferencing onboard.
The automaker will begin taking $200 reservations immediately, the CEO announced. Those who sign up for the “Pioneer” program will receive a voucher for $3,000 towards the purchase price of a VF8, and $5,000 on a VF9. They also will receive a free stay at one of the resorts run by VinFast’s parent, the Vingroup, in Vietnam.
At the start, VinFast will focus on California and other states with high BEV sales. It hopes to have 60 dealers lined up by the end of this year.
U.S. plant coming
Initially, the automaker will import all models from a highly automated plant in Haiphong, Vietnam. But it is in the process of narrowing down its search for a U.S. site, Thuy telling TheDetroitBureau.com she is personally heading to check out the three finalists in the coming days. The startup hopes to have the factory in operation within little more than a year after breaking ground.
During an interview, she acknowledged that it may be a challenge to launch the VinFast brand in the U.S. but added the timing is good considering the surge in interest in BEVs.
The plant will build both batteries and fully assembled vehicles and will have a capacity of 250,000 BEVs annually. Thuy said she is confident VinFast will find enough demand to keep the new U.S. facility running at full speed.