Vietnam’s VinFast targets US market

Vietnam’s VinFast targets US market

Vietnam’s VinFast targets US market

Having conquered most industries at home, optimistic chiefs at conglomerate Vingroup are setting their sights much higher as they ramp up plans to sell the first ever Vietnamese car in the mighty U.S. market.

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

His firm’s auto unit VinFast already has electric vehicles (EVs) on the streets of Hanoi.

However, the firm admits that competing in the crowded and difficult U.S. market, which is dominated by Tesla, will be a huge but worthwhile task.

“If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere,”  CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy told AFP.

But, she added, “we want to show people who might not have the correct understanding of Vietnam that Vietnam today is quite different to Vietnam during the war, or even to Vietnam 10 years ago”.

Within two years, Pham transformed a muddy patch of swampland near the northern port city of Haiphong into a state-of-the-art factory -- complete with 1,200 robots and a global team from auto giants including BMW and General Motors.                 

In July, VinFast opened six showrooms in California, including a flagship store at one of the trendiest malls in upmarket Santa Monica, though for now it is only taking orders as vehicles are not yet available.    

It plans 30 in total by the end of the year, 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 fully up and running.       

To hook customers, VinFast is pushing a highly unusual monthly battery-leasing model for the two cars headed to the United States -- the VF8 and VF9 -- lowering the cost of the upfront payment to $42,000 and $57,500 respectively. Tesla’s SUVs start at around $65,000.