Realities on the ground point to an uphill battle. The company has only one factory, near Hanoi in northern Vietnam, and only sold 30,000 vehicles in 2020, all in its home market. Toyota sells so many RAV4 crossovers in the United States in a single month.
VinFast has an unproven track record in overseas production, sales and customer service and its name is virtually unknown in the United States. Fortress of America.
Chinese entrants in electric vehicles Bordrin and Byton illustrate the difficulties to come. These Chinese startups had flashy concept cars, big ambitions and, in Byton’s case at least, an infusion of foreign talent that included a former vice president of the BMW Group who led the development of the BMW i8.
Bordrin ran out of money and folded, and Byton was thrown into limbo by the pandemic.
VinFast has not announced its pricing plans. But it expects to undercut the established competition by a wide margin while still delivering the same bells and whistles with acceptable reliability.
Even if a newcomer manages to master distribution, marketing and service, cultivating a good brand image is still a word of mouth game, said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com.
âIt’s a very difficult journey to get American consumers to accept a brand that they don’t know,â Brauer said. âYou can’t just spend money to change people’s minds. It takes time.”
At the best of times, he added, it may take a decade to truly take root in the United States.
But VinFast’s secret weapon may just be its speed.
It built its factory in Hai Phong in just 12 months and launched its first three models within 18 months of the factory’s completion. In the market segments in which it is present in Vietnam, it reached the 1st market share just 18 months after launching its first petrol nameplate in 2019, the Fadil.
Today, VinFast is joining the industry’s shift from internal combustion to electric by launching six electric vehicles, starting with the VF e34 compact crossover. This product received 25,000 pre-orders in the first three months it was offered. Deliveries begin in December.
Next year, VinFast will kick off a phase of Go Global expansion with the two new larger crossovers on display at the Los Angeles show – the VF e35 and VF e36.
Three other smaller electric vehicles are planned from 2023 and beyond.
VinFast has all the characteristics of a modern high-tech automotive disruptor. It promises the latest in automated driving capabilities and talks about artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and solid-state batteries. And Vingroup has two female vice presidents who oversee the automaker.
When VinFast starts taking orders in the US for the VF e35 and VF e36 in the first half of 2022, the company intends to bypass franchise dealers and retail through a purely digital format.
âWe will not be establishing dealer systems, but we will have showrooms and we will deploy distribution and sales activities ourselves to ensure high quality service to customers,â Lohscheller said.
âThis represents our first positioning in the near future. However, in the future, we will welcome the cooperation opportunities with the major distribution agents in the world markets. “