VinFast, the Vietnamese startup that plans to launch its first two EV models into the U.S. market by early next year, announced that two other all-electric SUVs will be added to its American line-up later in 2023.
The announcement, made during a news conference at the LA Auto Show, comes within a month of when VinFast expects to begin deliveries of its first battery-electric SUV, the midsize VF 8. The automaker already has six dealerships open in California now taking orders for its two initial product lines.
The larger VF 9 will follow during the first quarter of 2023, Craig Westbrook, the chief service officer for VinFast U.S., previously told TheDetroitBureau.com during an exclusive interview. But it will now be followed months later by two smaller offerings, the VinFast VF 6 and VF 7 SUVs. Together, the products will cover almost all major segments of the U.S. SUV market.
All four of the battery-powered models will be produced at a plant in Haiphong, Vietnam, though VinFast expects to shift production of the two larger products to a 2,000-acre assembly complex in North Carolina set to begin operations in 2024 at a cost of $2 billion.
While the various SUVs will share some signature features, notably V-shaped lightbars under their grilles, “We design each vehicle to appeals to the tastes and desires of customers in each vehicle segment,” said Dave Lyon, the automaker’s director of design.
Where the top-line VF 9 models will be a three-row crossover, the other models will feature just two rows.
Developed in collaboration with Italy’s Torino Design, the VF 7 is the sportiest of the four products VinFast has so far announced, Lyon telling an LA Auto Show audience it is “the model that generates the most conversations and the most stares” when he takes a prototype out on public roads.
Its sleek exterior carries over into the cabin which will feature leather and other high-line finishes. It also boasts a number of high-tech features, including Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, a range of advanced driver assistance systems and a large touchscreen-operated infotainment system atop the center stack.
Instead of a shifter mounted on either the center console or steering wheel, the VF 7 will use buttons mounted on the instrument panel below the infotainment system. But one of the more unusual design details will be the lack of a conventional gauge cluster. Instead, the vehicle will rely on a head-up display showing vehicle speed and other critical information.
What do you get?
Measuring 166.9 inches, nose to tail, the VF 6 will be about a foot shorter than the other new addition to the VinFast line-up. It also will use the button shifter and head-up display. And VF 6 adopts a slightly more traditional, boxy design than the VF 7.
It will be offered with just a single electric motor on the front axle producing 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in its base Eco configuration, 201 hp and 228 lb-ft in the Plus package.
The VF 7 will also offer a single motor base trim delivering 201 hp and 228 lb-ft. But the all-wheel-drive, twin-motor model will get a bump in power to 349 hp and 368 lb-ft.
When VinFast first laid out plans for its U.S. dealer network it indicated that the VF 8 and VF 9 models would adopt an unusual sales strategy where buyers would purchase the vehicle but separately lease their batteries. Two months ago, the automaker shifted away from that approach and now plans to offer buyers the alternative choice of a more conventional purchase plan including both the vehicle and its lithium-ion pack.
All models will be backed by a 10-year/125,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, with the batteries covered by a 10-year/unlimited mile warranty.
VinFast did not disclose wither the range of the two new models or their expected pricing. The VF 8 starts at $42,200 without the battery pack, $57,000 with it included. The bigger VF 9 will start at $57,500 plus the battery lease, and $76,000 with the pack included.
By the end of this year, VinFast plans to have six dealerships open in California, with a roughly tenfold increase scheduled by late 2023. It plans to selectively roll out to other parts of the U.S. but may not follow the 50-state model of traditional manufacturers.
That’s because it plans to avoid franchising its showrooms, Westbrook told TheDetroitBureau.com, much like EV rival Tesla. So, it will follow a strategy of targeting states where demand for battery-powered vehicles shows a strong growth opportunity — but only if state laws permit corporate ownership.
Even as it moves forward with the rollout of its initial VF 8 and 9 models, and outlines plans for the new VF 6 and VF 7 models, VinFast is looking for further growth opportunities, Westbrook said. It is considering whether there would be demand for an even smaller battery-electric SUV, the VF 5, that could come to market sometime closer to mid-decade.
VinFast was founded in 2017 by the Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest conglomerate. It launched its first production model just two years later, a modified version of the BMW X5. It has scrubbed that program and already migrated to a solely EV strategy, launching its first model for the Vietnamese market earlier this year.