Vietnam’s VinFast is targeting the US market in an ‘absurdly tough’ venture

Vietnam’s VinFast is targeting the US market in an ‘absurdly tough’ venture


Having conquered most of the industries at home, the optimistic bosses of conglomerate Vingroup are setting their sights much higher as they advance plans to sell the first-ever Vietnamese car in the powerful US market.

The pivot is a bold move by Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong – Vietnam’s richest man – who started selling dried noodles in the former Soviet Union before making his $5 billion fortune in a range of sectors including real estate, tourism and… education accumulated.

His company’s auto unit, VinFast, already has electric vehicles (EVs) on the streets of Hanoi, though the pull of the lucrative US market is too big to ignore.

However, the company concedes that competing in the crowded and difficult US market dominated by Tesla will be a tall but rewarding task.

“If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere,” CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy told AFP at the factory site, where the finishing touches were given to the VF8, a sleek-design mid-size SUV from Italian manufacturer Pininfarina. who has worked with Ferrari for decades.

But, she added, “we want to show people who may not understand Vietnam properly that Vietnam today is very different from Vietnam during the war or even Vietnam 10 years ago”.

While the goal of getting Americans to get their cars running by Christmas may seem like a tall order, Vingroup – Vietnam’s largest private company – has a track record of making it happen.

In two years, Pham transformed a muddy swamp near the northern port city of Haiphong into a state-of-the-art factory – complete with 1,200 robots, German, Japanese and Swedish machines and a global team of auto giants including BMW and General Motors.

– Public skepticism –

The company has already invested heavily in its American dream.

In July, VinFast opened six showrooms in California, including a flagship store in one of the trendiest malls in upscale Santa Monica, though it’s only taking orders for now, as vehicles aren’t available yet.

By the end of the year, the company plans to have 30 in total, while it has also broken ground on a $2 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in North Carolina that it says will produce 150,000 cars a year when it is completed is fully operational.

The factory aims to create more than 7,000 new jobs, prompting US President Joe Biden to tweet the announcement back in March.

“I always joke that he’s the best salesman we have,” says Thuy.

But the American public is likely to be far more skeptical, said Karl Brauer, a Los Angeles-based analyst at, a vehicle comparison site.

“It’s typical that it takes a couple of decades for brand new automakers to get a foothold in the US market,” he said, citing South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, which struggled in the ’90s and early 2000s.

They are among the most popular automakers in the United States today.

Americans’ perception may be, “This is an outrageous brand that I’ve never had experience with and I’m not sure I have confidence in the quality,” he added.

– Push to Europe –

To retain customers, VinFast is pushing a highly unusual monthly battery lease model for the two cars heading to the United States — the VF8 and VF9 — lowering the upfront cost to $42,000 and $57,500, respectively Dollar. Tesla’s SUVs start at around $65,000.

Once the battery life is down to 70 percent, VinFast will replace it for free and aim to reuse or recycle the old one.

“The theory behind this is that we’re offering you a vehicle that’s priced similarly to an internal combustion engine vehicle,” Thuy explained.

The scale of VinFast’s ambitions, which stretches to Europe, where the first of 20 showrooms is set to open by the end of the year, has stunned many in the industry.

“It’s absurdly hard to build a car and sell it, at least to a global audience, which is what VinFast’s ambitions seem to be,” said Matthew Degen, senior editor at Kelley Blue Book, a shopping and research website Cars.

“Typically, it takes years and years to go from a design on paper to a car that’s in your hands and you actually drive it.”

However, VinFast developed three cars in just 21 months.

And while the regular car market is already saturated, he says there may be a “short window” in which they can make their mark in the still-developing electric vehicle sector.

For brewers, VinFast’s success will largely come from millennials.

They will have “problems with people over 50 years old … but younger consumers in this country are becoming more and more open to new vehicles”.

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