U.S. customers waiting to take delivery of their VinFast VF 8 battery-electric vehicles will have to wait until at least late February, the Vietnamese automaker announced Friday.
It’s the latest delay for the automotive startup which hoped to get at least some of the first 999 midsize SUVs shipped to the States handed over to owners before the end of 2022. The automaker also cautioned that a second batch of vehicles will be delayed, as well.
“The cars have been updated with the latest software,” VinFast said in a statement. “We are planning to hand over the first VF 8 vehicle models to customers in the second half of February,”
A shift in direction
Based in Haiphong, a major port city near the capital of Hanoi, VinFast was formed in 2017 and started building a licensed and modified version of the BMW X5 two years later. At the 2021 LA Auto Show, however, the company announced a shift in strategy, killing off products using internal combustion engines to focus on a broad range of battery-electric vehicles.
It showed off its first models at the L.A. show but renamed them and added three more EVs to the line-up the following year.
In keeping with its name, the automaker wanted to make a fast push into the growing market for battery-electric vehicles and began production of the VF 8 last autumn. It loaded the first 999 of the EVs onto a car carrier in late November, that number seen as good luck in the Vietnamese culture, CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy explained.
A series of delays
The goal was to have at least a small number on the road before the end of December. That got pushed back but, at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, Stuart Taylor, VinFast’s director of smart services, said Jan. 5 the first handover would happen in a matter of days.
“We’re transitioning from vehicle reveals to vehicles on the road,” he said.
It’s not clear if there were other problems beside the need to update software delaying the initial deliveries. The VF 8 features smartphone-style over-the-air updates that should be capable of replacing or revising most onboard software.
Potential longer-term impact
It’s also uncertain how this impacts future deliveries but the VinFast statement noted, “The second batch will be shipped to the U.S. in the second quarter of 2023.”
By that point, the automaker had hoped to begin delivering a second EV, the larger VinFast VF 9 SUV.
Company officials previously claimed they have locked down 55,000 orders worldwide for VinFast’s new EVs. About 12,000 of those come from U.S. buyers.
Copying Tesla’s move
The automaker is pushing to build up that order bank, last week announcing a new incentive plan. That see the base VF 8 City Edition Eco model start at $49,000, with the better-equipped VF 8 Plus starting at $56,000. There’s also a $3,000 discount available in the U.S.
The announcement of the price cut and incentive program came shortly after Tesla said it was cutting the price of its products by as much as 20 percent. Ford has also trimmed the price of its Mustang Mach-E battery-electric SUV.
Despite the launch delays, VinFast officials told TheDetroitBureau.com that, if anything, they hoped to speed up the rollout of other model lines. Originally scheduled to debut in the U.S. in 2024, CEO Thuy said the smaller, sportier VF 6 and VF 7 models could reach showrooms late this year.
The automaker has not yet responded to questions about whether those models will now be pushed back again.