Hanoi, Vietnam. There will be a new player in the automotive world this fall. Its name is Vinfast and we will have two SUVs. The first one is called the VF8. It is a 2 row model with a format that is between the Acura RDX and the Mercedes GLE. It is all-electric and targets the luxury market. Its starting price will be $51,250 plus a monthly cost (not yet determined) for battery leasing. In the spring of 2023, a three-row SUV the VF9 will join the VF8 with an entry price of $65,750. The battery will be a bit bigger, as will the format.
Who is Vinfast
The Vinfast automotive division is one of the 48 subsidiaries of Vingroup. This large company now based in Vietnam was founded in 1993 in Ukraine under the name Technocom. In its early days its founder, Phạm Nhật Vượng made his fortune in food with instant noodles, mainly under the brand name Mivina. In 2000, the company launched its operations in Vietnam. It was only in 2017 that the company launched its Vinfast division in Vietnam.
Ultra-modern factory built in 22 months
Vingroup has a reputation for moving very fast. Officials at the plant in Vietnam explain that decisions are made very quickly and construction is done quickly. The company purchased 1,280 ABB robots of the latest Schueler press machines. Vietnam plant manager Shaun Calvert emphasizes Vinfast’s excellent approach. “Mr. Vuong only takes the best suppliers and does not change anything about the product. We contacted the best in everything, the paint factory, the robots, the presses, and in each case, it was two to three times faster than the GM manufacturers I worked with before in Germany and Australia. This plant is in its 3rd year of production and is producing 207 vehicles per day on one shift. Eventually, production will increase from 38 to 60 units per hour and gradually increase from 250,000 to 950,000 units per year by the end of 2023 if the popularity of the models allows such production to be met. The assembly line is fully adaptable and is able to manufacture both gasoline and electric models on the same assembly line. At the moment the factory is building the VF e34 model which is a model that will not come to us and looks like a Bolt EUV. There is the VF8 starting and that will be followed by the VF9 and by 2025 by the VF 5, VF 6 and VF 7 models. All these models are battery electric. Vinfast also produces, until the end of 2022, gasoline models only sold in Vietnam the Lux models which are based on a BMW 5 Series and X5 with 4 cylinder engine.
Conquering the world with the VF8 and VF9 models
Vinfast decided to leave Vietnam by announcing just a few weeks ago a $2 billion investment near Raleigh, North Carolina to set up a plant that will be able to build 150,000 vehicles per year at the beginning. Vinfast will also make an IPO that could bring $60 billion into the coffers that could fund a plant in Germany. According to officials who will set up the plant in North Carolina, it could be much larger than the one in Vietnam and have up to 12,000 employees. It would produce cars and SUVs for the North American market.
A serious approach
We had a brief encounter with a pre-production VF8 model on the factory grounds in Vietnam. We’ll get a full test drive in May when a press launch with production models takes place in New York. Our first few minutes of contact reveals the same rigorous approach to manufacturing. Vinfast called on Pininfarina for the design of the model, which is successful. Inside, we recognize the influence of BMW, which is Vinfast’s partner for these gasoline models. The layout is very similar to that of a 3 or 5 Series in the layout of the controls and the general presentation of the cabin. As far as power goes, the VF8 model will come in two versions Eco and Plus. Both models offer 4-wheel drive and the same 82 kWh engine. The Eco model offers two 130kw motors while the Plus comes with two 150kw motors. This translates into 358 to 402 horsepower and 355 to 468 lb-ft of torque. The 0-100 km/h is between 5.5 and 5.9 seconds. The Eco version is announced with the best range at 420 km, while the Plus version is not far behind at 400 km. Figures that are competitive in the current market. Vinfast will have a larger battery of 100 kWh in its VF9 model (87 kWh usable).
Like Mercedes-Benz or Toyota, Vinfast has opted for a Google environment in its VF8. By simply saying Hey Vinfast, you can access a large number of voice commands that allow you to book a hotel room, turn on your lights at home, change the radio station and even shop online. As for the space, nothing to complain about. You also get the usual suite of electronic driving aids, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and 11 airbags. A pre-production model is not representative of a fully developed model. Some shortcomings like controls and buttons that fall in your hand are not uncommon. Let’s just say that for a model that still needed some refinement, you could already see that Vinfast was taking its job seriously. Delivering a driving impression on a 6-minute test drive is a mission impossible, especially with a pre-production model. What we can say is that Vinfast is able to move much faster than the average manufacturer without compromising quality. An asset that could come in handy in an electric world that is already moving very fast.
A first store at Carrefour Laval
Vinfast, which has brick-and-mortar dealerships in Vietnam, is going to do the same thing here as Tesla and Polestar, with stores in key locations. A first store in the Montreal area will be opened at Carrefour Laval later this fall. Vinfast products will be covered by a 10-year, 200,000 km warranty on everything, including the battery. Note also that the battery will be a mandatory rental for the first three years and the customer will then have the choice to buy back the battery or continue the rental from the 4th year.