VinFast is the shorthand name for VinFast Trading and Production, a subsidiary of Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup. Recently, it announced plans to open an automobile manufacturing facility in the US in the near future. But first, it expects to establish an R&D office in San Francisco to prepare for sales of its vehicles in the Golden State. According to a report by Viet Nam News, VinFast expects to open 35 showrooms and service centers in California this year and begin selling cars there in 2022.
“VinFast’s vision is to become a global smart electric car company and the US market is one of the first international markets that we will focus on,” says VinFast CEO Thái Thị Thanh Hải. “We initially will develop high-end models for the US,” she added. Hải firmly believes the company can win over customers in the US and other countries who are wary of buying an automobile from a Vietnamese firm they know little or nothing about by offering top-quality vehicles with high safety standards and advanced technology. Vingroup chairman Phạm Nhất Vượng told Bloomberg recently that he will invest $2 billion in Vinfast in order to make it ready to export cars to the US.
Two All Electric SUVs
According to CNET RoadShow, the company will export 2 all electric SUVs, named the VF32 and VF33, to America. That’s good. America is cuckoo for SUVs, so at least VinFast is targeting the sweet spot of the US light-duty passenger vehicle market. The VF32 is roughly the size of the Ford Edge and will have two powertrains available — a single motor version with a 201 horsepower motor and 236 lb-ft of torque and a dual motor version with 402 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. Both will feature a 90 kWh battery. The company has not released any range information as of yet. The larger VF33 will come with dual motors, a battery of “up to” 106 kWh, and claimed range of 342, although whether that is EPA, WLTP, or NEDC is not stated. Both cars were designed in collaboration with Italy’s Pininfarina.
The company is making significant claims about Level 4 self-driving capabilities as well. It’s possible that Lidar may be part of the package, but details are not available. CNET speculates a lot of what VinFast calls autonomous technology is actually little more than the active electronic driver assist technologies available today from a number of manufacturers, especially Tesla. However, VinFast was granted a license to test its self driving cars on public roads in California last year.
VinFast also claims its cars will come with futuristic interiors that include facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and a multilingual virtual assistant. CNET contributor Sean Szymkowski is skeptical. “Tossing numbers out is simple,” he says. “Building cars is difficult.” He advises a cautious wait and see attitude before crowning VinFast the new king of the mountain among EV manufacturers.
Traditionally, a successful entré into the US market has involved offering basic transportation priced well below the market average, building a dealer network, and waiting 20 years (or more) for the market to respond. This is the model employed by Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and even BMW. But more companies have failed to gain traction in America than have succeeded. Think of Peugeot, Citroen, Yugo, Daewoo, Suzuki, and a host of other companies who tried and failed to make a permanent mark on the US automobile market. Will VinFast thrive where others have stumbled? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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