Vinfast, owned by Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate, is looking forward to seeing its electric cars on US roads by the end of the year, an ambition that seems overly optimistic.
Finfast models are increasingly visible on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but entering the US market, home of Tesla, is a risky bet in an already fiercely competitive market.
In less than two years, the “Finny Group”, led by the richest man in Vietnam, transformed a muddy land near the coastal city of Haiphong (north) into a sophisticated factory equipped with 1,200 robots and machines purchased from Germany, Japan and Sweden, and an international team that worked in car companies such as “” BMW and General Motors.
The group is led by Pham Nhat Phong, who made his fortune in the former Soviet Union by selling instant noodles, and has since accumulated a fortune of $5 billion that has allowed him to be present in all sectors of the Vietnamese economy from real estate to health and from tourism to education.
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The US market represents an important turning point for Finfast, according to its director, T2 Toy. “If we succeed there, we can succeed anywhere,” the official told AFP from the company’s factory.
The brand’s latest model, the VF8, is an SUV designed by Italian company Pininfarina, which has worked with Ferrari for decades, and is about to hit the market.
Finfast Factory AFP
“We want to show (…) that today’s Vietnam is completely different from the Vietnam of the war, and even from the Vietnam of ten years ago,” Tui adds. The company has invested heavily in its American dream.
In July, Finfast opened six California showrooms, including a flagship store in Santa Monica on one of Los Angeles’ most prestigious avenues. The manufacturer plans to open 30 stores in total by the end of the year. It will also spend $2 billion to open a car and battery plant in North Carolina.
The ultimate goal is to get 150,000 cars off the assembly line, and more than 7,000 new jobs are expected, prompting US President Joe Biden to announce the plant himself on his Twitter account in March. “He’s our best salesperson,” Toei jokes.
But the American public opinion will certainly be more skeptical, according to the estimates of Karl Brauer, an expert at the American website ICCars.com, and the expert believes that “it usually takes about 20 years for a new manufacturer to establish itself in the American market,” referring to the ideal of my company. Hyundai and Kia, South Korea. For Americans, he adds, a little-known brand is “one they’ve never tried on the road and so have doubts about its quality”.
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In order to attract customers, Finfast relies on the price factor. Its models “VF8” and “VF9” presented in the American market cost 42 thousand and 57,5 thousand dollars respectively, compared to 65 thousand dollars for the simplest SUV from the company “Tesla”.
It also proposes a monthly system for the battery to rent and replace it for free if its storage capacity drops below 70 percent. “The basic idea is that we’re proposing a car that’s priced similarly to an internal combustion engine vehicle,” Toei says.
But in addition, “the consumer has become environmentally conscious (…) and is a good consumer, so there is no reason not to buy electric cars,” according to Tui, who confirms the receipt of more than 10,000 pre-orders.
vinfast car AFP
Europe next target
Finfast’s ambitions extend to Europe, where it plans to open its first showroom by the end of the year, and its ambitions amaze many players in the sector. “It’s incredibly difficult to build and sell a car, at least to a global audience, as Finfast aspires,” says Matthew Deggin, editor of the car buying site Kelley Blue Book.
The Vietnamese brand developed three prototypes in just 21 months, while it “usually takes years and years to move a car from an idea on paper to something it actually drives”.