Vietnamese automaker VinFast, which was founded in 2017, has global ambitions. The company recently raised $4 billion to support market launches in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the US. It has opened 6 stores in California, and is building a $2-billion manufacturing plant in North Carolina.
The VinFast VF 8, an electric SUV, is scheduled to arrive in the US, Germany, France and the Netherlands starting in Q3 2022. It will be priced at $40,000-55,000, depending on battery size.
The company, a subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, is not an EV-only automaker, but it announced in January that it planned to end production of its ICE models.
Michael Dunne, an expert on the Asian auto industry, recently paid a visit to the company’s “highly-advanced manufacturing plant” in the northern port city of Haiphong. The factory has a capacity of 250,000 vehicles a year. On Dunne’s visit, the body shop teemed with 1,250 shiny new robots from ABB.
“In VinFast, we have the consummate underdog,” writes Dunne. “A young company that few people outside of Vietnam have ever heard of, from a country with a thin automotive history where average incomes barely tip $400 per month.”
Dunne took three of VinFast’s models for test drives, including the Pininfarina-designed VF 8, and “came away impressed with the looks, build quality, and the smooth ride.”
“But the single most impressive takeaway from my time with VinFast was the tenacity,” says Dunne. “VinFast people are determined. They are fearless. And they are not naive. They understand that as one of dozens of EV startups around the world, the going will get tough.”
Such language is reminiscent of the sort of things we used to write about a determined young automaker from an earlier era, back when Tesla was cool. But VinFast’s corporate culture reminds Dunne of another Asian automotive underdog: Hyundai, which grew from a small maker of cheap compact cars into a highly-respected global giant, and a current leader in the EV space.
VinFast leaders acknowledge that breaking into the global auto market will be “an uphill battle all the way,” but one thing they appear to have in plenty is determination. “We like to make the impossible possible,” VinFast CEO Madame Thuy told Dunne.