While its first battery-electric vehicles reached U.S. shores late in December, VinFast held off plans to hand over the keys to its first buyers by the end of the year. At least some of the 999 VF 8 SUVs shipped to the U.S. now will be delivered this month, company officials told TheDetroitBureau.com following an event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
While deliveries may be off to a slow start, the Vietnamese automaker is accelerating its product rollout. It hopes to have some of the larger VF 9 SUVs available for sale in the U.S. by mid-year, ahead of its earlier plan. And two other products, the downsized VinFast VF 6 and VF 7 models, could be here before the end of 2023, CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy confirmed.
“We’re transitioning from vehicle reveals to vehicles on the road,” said Stuart Taylor, VinFast’s director of smart services, said during a presentation at CES 2023.
Plenty of change
VinFast is Vietnam’s first automaker, formed in 2017. Its first vehicle, a licensed variant of the BMW X5 crossover, debuted in 2019. But the automaker switched focus and, at the 2021 LA Auto Show, announced it would end production of models using internal combustion engines, switching to battery power.
The transition begins with the midsize VF 8, which boasts a starting price of $59,000 for the Eco model. It went into production last year, and will be followed during the first half of 2023 with the three-row VF 9.
At the LA Auto Show last November, VinFast introduced two more products, the compact VF 7 crossover and the sportier VF 6. Their rollout will be moved forward, Thuy and other VinFast executives told TheDetroitBureau.com, with a goal of getting them into U.S. showrooms by late 2023 or, at the worst, early next year.
Thuy also said in an interview that the company is giving serious consideration to adding a fifth all-electric model, the VF 5, revealed in concept form at the 2022 L.A. show.
“I think the VF 5 actually (would be) a good fit for certain customers, like college students,” said the CEO. So, while its currently aimed solely at the Vietnamese market, “We are considering whether we should bring it overseas.”
Progress in the U.S.
VinFast is already taking orders for its first two models, with 10 showrooms now operating in California. It plans to begin rolling into other states over the next year, though it is not clear if or when it might be operating in all parts of the country.
The automaker shipped the first 999 VF 8 models to the U.S. late last year, that number considered good luck in Vietnam.
“The reaction has been very good so far,” Thuy said during an interview at CES, especially considering “we are a newcomer nobody knows about.”
She declined to discuss sales targets for the first year in the U.S.
Since VinFast first announced plans to go all-electric, the game has changed and could create unexpected challenges for the rollout of the company’s expansive product program. The passage of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act last year means that VinFast will have a tougher time qualifying for sales incentives. The IRA now requires products be built in the U.S. using batteries not only produced domestically but using locally sourced raw materials,
“We have to think about supply chains in a different way,” Thuy acknowledged.
But the automaker could be well-positioned to regain incentives as it has laid out plans for an assembly complex in North Carolina. The first, $2 billion phase of that project is set to go into production in 2024.