VinFast presented four battery-electric SUVs at the LA Auto Show this week, vehicles it has long shown and discussed. But now it even hints at a sports car as the Vietnam-based automaker moves ahead with its plan to break into the US market.
The four electric vehicles, ranging in size from small five-passenger crossovers to large seven-passenger SUVs, are part of the company’s effort to resonate with US consumers. In an EV market that almost every automaker is now entering, it may take more than just offering SUVs. According to VinFast US chief service officer Craig Westbrook, the election is part of the plan
VinFast’s plan is to flood the space with lots of options to get Americans familiar with the new brand, Westbrook told TechCrunch. The executive also hinted that VinFast could unveil a sports car for the US market by this time next year.
“We need a product offensive,” Westbrook said in an interview at the LA Auto Show. “We have to come to the market strongly. We don’t have to limit or loosen models and purchase options for the few. So within probably less than 12 months, you’ll have all four models, all SUVs, these four big size and price segments.”
VinFast expects to launch two SUVs, the VF6 and the VF7, by early 2023.
VinFast displayed the VF6, VF7, VF8 and VF9 at the LA Auto Show and offered rides in the VF8 for five passengers outside of the convention center. Unlike last year’s auto show, where the company showed global vehicles like the VFe36 and VFe35 without interiors, the VF6 and VF7 had interiors for customers and the media to browse to get a feel for what the new company was into the US could deliver.
In the two short laps of the tiny test track in front of the LA Convention Center, the VF8 felt like any other EV crossover — the weight of the battery pack, which VinFast estimates will achieve a range of up to 292 miles, is particularly noticeably uneven bumps. The vegan leather interior and large central screen give the interior a luxurious and surprisingly spacious feel. A large dual-pane roof makes the rear seat feel spacious and open, and the rear ride is equally appealing.
According to Westbrook, the VF8 and VF9 vehicles are currently on their way to the US and should be delivered to buyers in early 2023. Globally, VinFast says it has 65,000 reservations for the VF8 and VF9, but the company didn’t have an exact breakdown for North America at the time of our interview.
Most of those orders come to California, according to Westbrook, and customers are primarily those who are making an EV jump for the first time, Westbrook observed.
“Most pre-orders have been made here [California]’ Westbrook said. “California is easy. This is where the head office and a port are located, so we will serve these customers first. Of course we want to look at all our customers, but that will be the first way we can try to penetrate the market as effectively as possible.”
VinFast currently has six retail locations open in California, all located in malls where people can come in and check out the vehicles, much like a Tesla store. Westbrook says some of the first vehicles to come out of Vietnam will hit stores so more potential customers can get in and test drive the vehicles.
Westbrook said many of the reservation holders aren’t at the point on the purchase journey where they have to decide whether to go with the company’s somewhat controversial battery leasing program or buy their vehicle outright. When asked about the reception reservation holders have had for the battery lease option, Westbrook said, “We’ve seen a kind of growing acceptance and interest in the option.”
During the LA Auto Show presentation, Westbrook pointed out that VinFast recently landed an order for 2,500 vehicles from auto subscription company Autonomy, which generally only deals in Teslas.
New warranty and service options
VinFast’s goal is to make the transition to battery electrics as accessible as possible for new customers, Westbrook said. To that end, the company announced further details of its bumper warranty, which offers industry-leading 10-year, 125,000-mile coverage, as well as a 10-year, unlimited mileage battery warranty, which the company says was designed to help EV customers stay safe to offer a transition to electric driving.
The company also announced a mobile service that will come to customers or provide rides when customers are stranded.
“I would say when it comes to quality, people have expectations and we have to meet them,” Westbrook said. “We understand that if you’re buying a car over here and our service point is over there, you might not want to come to us. So we can help you, right? And that’s part of our model. It is not forced into anything. We know that’s exactly what you, the customer, want.”