On March 1, VinFast officially delivered the first 45 of 999 vehicles to customers in the US, setting the stage for a home delivery service which will continue across California in the next couple of days.
The release of the vehicles, all of which arrived last December in Los Angeles and had gone through pre-delivery inspection, was cast in doubt by several reports coming through the motoring press about the state of the corporate health of Vinfast. These stories were headlined in such a way that readers were misled into thinking that the company is not able to meet its commitment.
It highlighted the supposed firing of VinFast CFO Richard Haynes, and the firing of employees at its stores in the US and Canada, the “pulling out” of support from VinFast Chairman, Vietnamese billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, and delays in the construction of the North Carolina plant. Some reports mentioned that there was slowdown in production in Hai Phong where the cars are assembled and that no vehicle was sold in Vietnam. One story even mentioned that the VF8 was unable to pass US emissions and safety test and this was the cause of delay of delivery to customers, most of whom expected their cars as early as January 2023.
Curiously, the stories came out just weeks before the deliveries of the VF8 City Edition to its first owners.
CleanTechnica got in touch directly with our contacts from the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA) to get some information on the local manufacturing and distribution of VinFast EVs in the local market.
Moreover, we got in touch directly with Vingroup Vice Chair and Chairwoman of VinFast Holdings Le Thi Thu Thuy to get answers to these pressing questions. This report is a result of an interview with her facilitated by the Vinfast media team in Hanoi.
According to sources from VAMA, VinFast is on track in its assembly process as reported to the association by Vinfast’s manufacturing group. Currently in Vietnam, the company has delivered some 4,278 EVs to local customers. This included 2,730 VF 8 vehicles and 1,548 VF e34s. The e34s is a domestic-exclusive model and will not be sold outside the country. That vehicle recently faced a recall late last year wherein 730 units were given new side-crash sensors. According to VinFast, the number of its EVs being sold in Vietnam has increased dramatically.
As for the delay in the distribution of cars in the US, the VinFast engineering team, through a reply in an email, denied that there were issues with safety and emissions. They explained that all Vinfast cars already passed the FMVSS and CARB EO certifications even before delivery. The vehicle’s delay in delivery was caused by software upgrades installed to the car that upped the EPA verified mileage from 179 miles to 207 miles.
Our short interview with VinFast Chairwoman Le Thi Thu Thuy revealed that the supposed downsizing of employees currently in the US and Canada, specifically a Bloomberg report that mentioned 80 employees being taken out of the company outlets is a result of consolidation. The positions of certain employees are being adjusted.
“VinFast is consolidating strategic business and management operations of VinFast US and VinFast Canada into a single unit, to be called VinFast North America, to drive increased efficiency in the use and allocation of resources, while improving the company’s operational and financial performance. In this process, it is inevitable that some positions will be adjusted, but all employees’ rights and benefits are ensured in accordance with the law. We have started recruiting key positions for the North Carolina factory,” Thuy told CleanTechnica
The restructuring also saw Rodney Haynes, Vinfast US CFO, leaving the company.
Le clarified that “Haynes’ departure does not affect VinFast’s operations in the US or globally,” as his stay with the company was just for a short time, taking care of finance and accounting at VinFast US when there were limited activities in the company.
As for the production at the Hai Phong plant to meet the promised for the local, US, and European market, Madam Li said that the company was ramping up production of a number of EV models that were reserved in 2022, especially the VF 8, to ensure the delivery schedule to international customers is met. We asked for a number or percentage, but didn’t get a reply.
The touchiest of the issues that confront VinFast is the story that its Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong is not interested in investing more money into the fledgling car company. The news has already affected the Vietnamese carmaker’s bid to do an IPO in the US, potentially damaging its reputation as a new car brand in the world’s biggest auto market. Thuy said the statements were misquoted or misunderstood.
“We meant VinFast Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong is not evaluating any imminent investment, but generally he remains supportive and is continually looking for ways to invest further, and accelerate VinFast’s development. There are no any specific plans yet at the moment,” Thuy shared.
Finally, on the matter of the North Carolina plant being delayed, her reply is:
“We are on pace of the construction plan, and expect to commence trial production by 2024. We have received the Air Permit, are preparing for sub-contractors bidding and will start construction soon.”
Meanwhile as this was going on in the background, Reuters reported that early adopters James and Christine Wang became the new owners of a VF8 they had reserved earlier this year.
In the same report, Andrew and Nikki Le, who toured the VinFast factory last year, had ordered 11 cars, have already taken delivery of the first one at a California sales outlet.
VinFast engineers had verified to CleanTechnica that the VF8 City Edition Eco had an actual EPA estimated battery range of 179 miles versus the 260 miles advertised. However, adjustments made before delivery to customers upped that number to 207 miles, still 53 miles less than expectation. This is the reason why the car was rebranded as the City Edition Eco, to separate it from the rest of the line-up which may have the “as advertised” range.
According to VinFast sources in California, the rebranded City Edition will continue be delivered to customers at its stores or through a home-delivery service in the following days. As a limited edition, this VF 8 City Edition comes with a special financing offer for customers. It comes with firmware over-the-air (FOTA) to provide regular updates designed to enhance vehicle functionality and performance.
The first handover event took place throughout the day at VinFast stores across California.
“The event drew tremendous attention from our US consumers. It’s extremely gratifying in fulfilling our delivery promise and to witness the excitement our customers have for the VinFast brand. This is a great moment for all of us and more motivation to continuously strive to exceed the expectations of our valued customers,” said Gareth Dunsmore, VinFast Deputy CEO, Global Sales & Marketing.
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