EV startup VinFast will lease the batteries in its new electric vehicles when it launches EV sales later this year, a program designed to address consumer concerns about lithium-ion technology.
The Vietnamese automaker plans to introduce two new SUVs in 2022, the VF 8 and bigger VF 9 models, with a compact model, the VF 7, to follow in 2023. VinFast officials told a media audience at the New York International Auto Show the leasing program will be one of the ways it hopes to differentiate itself from other manufacturers entering the EV market.
“Our cars are no longer concepts,” said Emmanuel Brett, the startup’s global co-CEO for sales and marketing. “They’re actually here for you to experience.”
Actually, not quite. While VinFast plans to open its first American dealership at the end of May, the first VF 8 and VF 9 models won’t be offered until late this year. Final product tuning is still underway, as TheDetroitBureau.com noted in a First Impressions review posted earlier this week.
Making a splash — or a charge?
The automaker was only incorporated in 2017, but showed it was serious about its name when it got its first model into production a mere two years later. The first model was a heavily modified version of the BMW X5 SUV. And, initially, VinFast planned to come to the U.S. with several models running on internal combustion engines.
At last November’s L.A. Auto Show, it announced a shift in direction, revealing it would soon halt production of ICE vehicles and switch entirely to battery power starting in 2022. The automaker began deliveries of its first electrified product, the VF 34, to Vietnamese customers last week.
VinFast confirmed that it will eventually produce five BEVs. But TheDetroitBureau.com has learned that another two are now in development. As many as four are expected to go on sale in the U.S. during the next several years.
Like other manufacturers, VinFast must overcome a number of consumer concerns about electric vehicles. It hopes to minimize range anxiety with the VF 9 model, which is expected to deliver as much as 369 miles per charge.
And VinFast has teamed up with charging company Electrify America to help make it easy for buyers to plug in when they’re away from home. The Vietnamese manufacturer will become one of the first to offer vehicles that can Plug & Charge. When a VF 8 or VF 9 will be plugged in at an Electrify America station, billing information will automatically be transferred from the vehicle to the charger, eliminating the need to enter personal data and then use either a credit card or a smartphone app.
Assuaging battery concerns
The durability of lithium-ion batteries has been found to be another serious concern, consumers worried that vehicle packs could suffer the same rapid degradation in power often experienced with smartphones and other portable apps.
So, VinFast buyers will effectively purchase just one of the two new vehicles, the VF 8 starting as low as $40,700, the VF 9 at $55,500. Those figures undercut key competitors which, in the case of the VF 8 include the Volkswagen ID.4 and Kia EV6.
There will be two leasing options. The basic plan comes in at $35 a month for the VF 8, $44 for the VF 9. Motorists will get up to 310 miles of free use each month. Motorists who go above that will pay an additional 11 cents per mile for the VF 8, 15 cents with the VF 9.
The alternate, all-you-can-eat plan will run $110 a month for the VF 8 and $160 for the VF 9.
The leases initially run for three years. After that, motorists will have a choice of either buying the packs or continuing to lease them. Under lease, VinFast will replace packs that develop problems, including those that drop to lower than 70% of initial capacity.
“This could help address concerns” about lithium batteries, said IHS Markit’s principal auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. But “you don’t rent an engine” in a conventional vehicle, she cautioned, saying that VinFast could find it “challenging” to get consumers to understand the unusual approach.