Tesla and the other automakers selling electric cars in the U.S. are about to get some competition from an unexpected place.
Vietnam-based VinFast will begin exporting a lineup of all-electric SUVs to California later this year, but its American market plans are even more ambitious.
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VinFast was founded in 2017 by Vietnam’s first-ever billionaire, entrepreneur Pham Nhat Vuong, whose fortune began with an instant noodle company he launched while living in Ukraine in the 1990s. The automaker started out making internal combustion engine vehicles but has since shifted to EVs.
“We see the demand and request for EVs booming everywhere in the world,” Emmanuel Bret, VinFast’s deputy CEO of global sales and marketing told FOX Business in an exclusive interview.
Bret said the company will have 30 stores up and running by the end of the year in California and then expand nationwide as it builds the brand.
Part of its plan includes a $2 billion factory it has entered a memorandum of understanding to build at the Chatham County Triangle Innovation Point outside Raleigh, North Carolina, that will be funded with the help of an initial public offering it has filed for.
Bret explained that the company’s belief is that it’s better to be close to the customer and that the project proves how serious it is.
“We are in the U.S. for a long, long, long time, so we want to really show this,” Bret said.
VinFast won’t be selling cars the old-fashioned way, however. The initial strategy is to sell and lease vehicles without battery packs, which will be leased separately.
“This is the only way to go for the future,” Bret said.
The idea is that it will create an entirely circular system that will allow it to fully recycle the materials into new batteries, which it hopes will reduce manufacturing and ownership costs.
“We will offer premium quality for everyone at a reasonable price compared to the size and quality of the car,” Bret added.
The first models that will be offered are the VF 8 and VF 9 SUVs, which will have starting prices of $40,700 and $55,500, respectively. The two-row and three-row vehicles were designed by Italy’s famed Pininfarina and engineered with the help of a number of major automotive industry suppliers, including Germany’s ZF.
Pricing for the battery lease is set at $35-$44 monthly with 310 miles driving allowed and $110-$160 monthly for an unlimited plan, but charging is not included beyond two complimentary fill-ups on the Electrify America network.
If the battery pack degrades to under 70% capacity or has any issues it will be replaced for free and recycled.
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VinFast said it may consider selling cars with batteries included in the future, but that it will focus on the subscription model for at least five years.
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