By on November 18, 2021

A foreign automaker that’s not well known in America comes to a major auto show and announces plans to sell cars in the States, showing off a couple of models and promising on-sale dates that seem both ambitious and yet not unreasonable.

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

The curiosity of this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show is VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker that’s part of a larger conglomerate called Vingroup. The conglomerate has its hands in all kinds of industries, from tech to real estate to retail to healthcare.

VinFast currently sells its vehicles in Vietnam, as you’d expect, but it’s been dipping its toes into various foreign markets over the past year or two. It announced plans to get cars into customers’ driveways by the end of 2022.

All those cars, at least in America, will be EVs. While VinFast does produce some internal-combustion engine vehicles in its home market, the cars slated for the U.S. are EVs. The two cars are actually SUVs — one dubbed the VF e35 and the other the VF e36.

Michael Lohscheller, CEO of VinFast Global, said in a release: “We are deeply motivated to inspire our customers to be bold and join the revolution to EVs to accelerate solutions that will address this crisis. VinFast believes that the ‘Future of Mobility’ will be one of smart electric cars that are highly personalized and integrated with technologies that benefit life and our environment. These vehicles will do so while meeting safety standards and delivering superior and comfortable driving experiences.”

Features available on the two vehicles include lane assist, collision warning, driver monitoring, automated parking, and a system that will allow drivers to summon the vehicle.

Orders will start during the first half of 2022.

I chatted with a VinFast spokesman (who asked to remain unnamed) on the floor at the L.A. show and pressed him on the company’s plans. It’s easy to say that you will build cars for America, but much harder to execute the plan. Even for a company that has been building and selling cars in other markets.

For example, one needs a dealer network. VinFast says that this won’t be an issue — the company plans to allow customers to do most of their shopping online, just like Tesla does (legacy automakers also have online buying programs). That sounds great, but shoppers still want to test-drive cars, and see them up close, and they also need a place to service them.

To that end, the company plans to build 60 centers that will offer retail, service, or both. The first will be built in California. The spokesman told me that VinFast has not, to his knowledge, earned pushback from dealers because of its desire to push an online-heavy buying system.

He also said that the company’s internal research suggested that consumers are satisfied with online-buying processes as opposed to visiting dealerships.

I asked if VinFast was prepared to deal with regulatory challenges that are specific to the American market, and the spokesman said the company was confident it was but he wasn’t willing to get into specific details. He did say that the company is targeting 5-star ratings in crash testing.

We’re a bit more skeptical. It’s relatively easy, if not cheap, for the company to put together a press conference and display at the show, and to host media for a party after the show’s first press day (full disclosure: I stopped by this party briefly). It’s another for VinFast to break into an already crowded American market, get the attention of consumers who have never heard of the company (and some who may be skeptical of cars built in Vietnam), show that the cars can compete with existing models, and navigate a complex regulatory environment.

Indeed, of the two cars on the show floor, one had a dummy interior that appeared to be made of foam.

I’m not suggesting VinFast will or won’t succeed in the States. But the odds are stacked against it. I look forward to seeing where the brand stands in the American market in November 2022.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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66 Comments on “VinFast Says Its Ready to Sell In America, Despite Skepticism...”


  • avatar
    aja8888

    Good luck to them. All these SUV’s are starting to look the same. Ho Hum!

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @Tim Healey,

      You included the Lohscheller blurb from the press release – let’s call this Level I Journalism.

      Level II Journalism: Has Lohscheller ever worked for any other car companies anywhere else in the world?

      Level III Journalism: Would you say Lohscheller’s experience there was generally successful or unsuccessful?

      It took me about 87 seconds to find this:
      https://www.automotiveworld.com/news-releases/michael-lohscheller-appointed-new-ceo-of-vinfast-global/

      But of course I wasn’t as busy as you grilling the spokesperson on the talking points handed to the spokesperson.

      ‘This company will never succeed because the auto show property they brought had a foam interior’ is a questionable leap in logic.

      Your headline is missing an apostrophe. Would you like a volunteer editor?

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Here’s an example of the Future of journalism (the talking head Skepticism adds a lot of depth):

        https://www.cbsnews.com/video/walmart-starts-using-autonomous-drones-in-new-delivery-service/#x

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @toolguy:
        Where is your journalism degree from? Mine’s from Drake. BA 1985.

        It’s a news story. Unless there’s something obviously off with the credibility of the person you are quoting, it isn’t necessary to evaluate whether the person you are quoting has the experience necessary to make the statement . That’s for the reader to decide.

        If this was an opinion piece the person’s credibility would be a valid question.

        With respect, you are not the Columbia Journalism Review.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          “It’s a news story.” “If this was an opinion piece…”
          There is plenty of opinion in Tim’s writeup – which I have absolutely no problem with.

          I was not asking Tim to evaluate the credibility behind the statement. Here is how this typically works: The ‘quote’ in the press release is ghost written by a third party and then Lohscheller or someone in Lohscheller’s office is asked to approve it before publication. There is an very good chance that the words in the ‘quote’ have never been uttered by Lohscheller (out loud or by any other means of communication). [And everyone including me is relieved that Lohscheller doesn’t talk like this.]

          The spokesperson that Tim “pressed” is very likely a mercenary. Automotive companies contract with third parties to obtain attractive and well-spoken spokespeople all the time (a relative ‘start-up’ would especially take this approach). The spokespersons are given a list of talking points which they ‘memorize’ and spout back when asked.

          You can interrogate the spokesperson all you want, but all you will get is the prepared talking points (you could bring along your favorite CIA operative and perhaps get more of a story – but would you believe what you were told at that point?). [And the spokesperson is very likely contractually obligated not to provide their individual contact information – because they have no ongoing affiliation with the client company.]

          Tim’s instinct to dig deeper was a good one, but aimed perhaps in the wrong direction. (By my read, based on the Opel experience in the link, Lohscheller seems to be a better-than-average selection for his current position.)

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            My point about the CBS News video – I don’t watch CBS News and am not familiar with the talking head who opens and closes the segment. But her reaction to the new technology seems to be:
            a) This will never work, and
            b) If it ever *does* work, will it hurt me personally?

            Which would make her an Egocentric Luddite. Which is fine (plenty of those around), but maybe not the best choice to report on/evaluate a new concept/business venture.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @toolguy:

            Seems to me the journalist tried his best to get the story from the source at hand. Sometimes that’s the best you can do. It’s not like a follow up story can’t be written here.

            I think you’re being overly critical.

    • 0 avatar
      Heino

      The same with Chinese motorcycles. They all look great.

  • avatar
    ziggy082

    The Vin Diesel Fast Furious edition will fly off the lots

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    The optics are REALLY bad when the company spokesman wants to remain anonymous!

  • avatar
    Kyree

    Aren’t these the people who were selling a thinly disguised LWB F15 (2014-2018) BMW X5 with an LS engine under the hood?

  • avatar
    mcs

    “I asked if VinFast was prepared to deal with regulatory challenges that are specific to the American market, and the spokesman said the company was confident it was but he wasn’t willing to get into specific details.”

    They’ve partnered with Pininfarina, BMW, and Magna Steyr, who definitely know how to build cars for the US market. They’re owned by a billionaire. I think their odds of success are a lot better than Hyundai and KIA when they came over. Their ICE SUV, the President, is based on the F15 BMW X5 with a GM LS-V8. A brilliant combination.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VinFast_President

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I could play along until this enviro-lingo appeared:

    “We are deeply motivated to inspire our customers to be bold and join the revolution to EVs to accelerate solutions that will address this crisis. VinFast believes that the ‘Future of Mobility’ will be one of smart electric cars that are highly personalized and integrated with technologies that benefit life and our environment. These vehicles will do so while meeting safety standards and delivering superior and comfortable driving experiences.”

    What is ‘this crisis’, and what consumer is clambering for ‘the future of mobility’?

    Chery was going to do great things in the US market a while back, and that faded. US car history is littered with similar prospects – Yugo, Bricklin, DeLorean, and even the likes of Fiat (twice), Peugeot, Opel. Lately, Faraday Future, Fisker, Aptera, and Elio are all duds.

    Only the right combination of money, product, timing, execution, and passion can make for success in the US car market. You really need all five factors to make it. Tesla has shown the way, and how hard it is.

    The US market is saturated, and US consumers demand instant service and product availability. Without scaling very quickly, they don’t have a chance.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    Fun fact – of all the countries in the world, the one with the most favorable views of the US? Vietnam at 84%.

    https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-that-love-americans

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, that’s bizarre.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @FreedMike Sir, we didn’t hate them or belittle them; we just tried to kill them.

        • 0 avatar

          They love America because they hate communists. After communists gone they will hate America like other normal countries.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Someone should probably update them on current events.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            It’s a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of thing. They hate the Chinese. In addition to that, the Vietnamese community in the US has close ties to their home country.

            It shouldn’t be surprising. Vietnam was 45 years ago. Look at what our relationships with Japan, Germany, and Italy 45 years after World War II were like.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @ILO:

            Vietnam is still a communist country, officially.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @el Scotto:
          Ah, was that all? Lol

          • 0 avatar

            @FreedMike Government may be communist but people largely are not. I will not be surprised if communist leaders of Vietnam will seek refuge in USA after anticommunist counter-revolution. Every revolutions is succeeded with counter-revolution. In France, Russia as classic examples, but even in USA.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @ILO:

            Read your history – the North Vietnamese communist regime had widespread support during the war, and that included the South, where the government was incredibly unpopular. How unpopular was it? It was so bad that hundreds of thousands of its’ citizens actually took up arms against their own government – the Viet Cong. That’s why the South lost.

            This held true to the end of the war. When the NVA began its’ final offensive in 1975, a very sizable portion of the South’s soldiers deserted and joined up with the North.

            And I don’t see any large-scale political opposition to the current Vietnamese government today.

            As far as America’s involvement with the war is concerned, the bottom line is this: we backed the South because it was “anti-communist,” but wasn’t any better than the communists it hated. That’s why the South lost, and we lost.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @freedmike: There was also a religious repression component as well. 80% of South Vietnam’s population was Buddhist and was discriminated against by the ruling Catholic majority.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @mcs

            Interesting, that’s a shame. If there is one faith that strikes me as live and let live, its Buddhism.

          • 0 avatar

            @FreedMike. We had Vietnamese scientists in our nuclear research institute near Moscow. They hated communists and communism. Of course officially all they were communists. Trouble starts when there are too many poor people.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @ILO:

            The Vietnamese folks who ended up here were generally the ones who were in the South Vietnamese government, or allied with it in some way. The U.S. relocated many such people as a result of the war.

            So, yes, they hated communism because they had to flee their country. But the fact remains: if most Vietnamese hated communism, the South would have won. The country got the government it wanted.

    • 0 avatar

      How about Japan?

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Japan, Germany, and Italy

        Simple – these countries have lost the war. The winner takes all. We posted our military bases there and still have them there. And will have them there.
        Italy is not particularly a problem. They never fought well, and always were under pressure to be ran over by communists. Japan technically is still at the state of war with Russia. Germany wants to do business with Russia and US is trying to stop it. Once the grip loosens you will see Russian-German alliance again, if not formal, at least economical.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “the one with the most favorable views of the US? Vietnam at 84%.”

      That is just a clever trap to get Americans to visit, then Charlie is going to pop up and say “game on”.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The plan sort of makes sense. Going EV-only means they don’t have to get past emissions regs. Perhaps whoever they licensed the safety tech from also sold them some structural analysis software; the crash tests don’t play favorites. Getting a meaningful dealer network established will be the make or break.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Serious capital investment gets you to the head of the immigration/new citizen line. Follow the old man, his children, and all of their spouses.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The company was founded in 2017 by Vingroup.[7] The company designed its models with the help of Pininfarina, BMW and Magna Steyr and participated in the 2018 Paris Motor Show. VinFast claims it will be the first volume automotive manufacturer in Vietnam as well as the first Vietnamese automaker to participate in a major international auto show.

    VinFast broke ground in September 2017 on an 828-acre (3,350,000 m2) facility in an industrial park located on Cat Hai Island near the city of Hai Phong. The factory with paint shop, press shop, assembly shop and engine shop was built in just 21 months .[8]The investment is US$1.5 billion in the first phase of a program to make cars and electric motorbikes at a greenfield factory on the facilities. The company claimed that it has aggregated talent from multiple established companies and is sourcing European design, engineering, and production technology partners. The first two vehicles that were shown at Paris motor show in the fall of 2018 are the LUX SA2.0 and the LUX A2.0, designed by Pininfarina.

    Additionally, General Motors recently announced a partnership between Chevrolet and VinFast. VinFast will have exclusive rights to distribute Chevys in Vietnam and will take ownership of the existing General Motors (GM Korea) factory in Hanoi (VIDAMCO). That factory will then build a GM-licensed “all-new global small car” to be sold under the VinFast name.[9]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VinFast

  • avatar
    PotLizard

    “We are deeply motivated to inspire our customers to be bold and join the revolution to EVs to accelerate solutions that will address this crisis.”

    Geez, what 21-year old PR hack right out of MassComm school wrote that drivel?

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    If they price their crap low enough it’ll get share.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The first Vinfasts were the old BMW X5 and a 5 series, restyled. Anyone remember the dud 2.0l turbo that BMW sold from 2011 until late 2015 in the US? It was the N20, the cam drive tensioner eater. It got replaced by the current B48. Car names changed from 28 to 30 when it happened, like 328i became 330i.

    Well, someone had the bright idea to buy the N20 engine-making machinery and the line for whatever old X5 and 5 Series BMW had available for flogging off. Guess who? You got it, the Vin Group and its thrusting owner, a real estate tycoon. He dug up a decent stylist from Europe along the lines of what Hyundai and Kia have been doing, and voila! Insta Car. It was all going to be happening in 18 months from the 2017 announcement, a brand new factory churning out Vinfasts.

    Putting an LS V8 into the old X5 and claiming a 300 km/hr (186 mph) top speed was a subsequent “bright idea”. Publicity. All of 500 were going to be built. Who knows how many were made.

    The man running this outfit never takes no for an answer, is hell-bent on doing things yesterday, but has zero clue about selling cars in first world markets. So the N20 has been replaced in these models shown in LA with an EV powertrain of some description or other, and similar styling to the original cars.

    The only people laughing are BMW and Magna, who as we know is associated with BMW through their X-Drive (also used by Jaguar and FCA in the AWD Challenger/Chrysler 300 – Hyundai uses their FWD H-drive as well) and making the Z4/Toyota Supra, plus numerous other technical hookups. They met a man with a plate of cash and a need to spend it NOW.

    What a complete hoot! Avoid Vinfast like the plague is my advice. Everything will likely be rushed in a bid to satisfy the impatient owner.

  • avatar
    downunder

    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world: https://www.drive.com.au/news/vinfast-closing-port-melbourne-design-and-engineering-office-former-holden-test-track-safe-say-industry-insiders/
    VinFast Australia
    Vietnamese start-up car-maker VinFast has confirmed it will walk away from Australia and the Lang Lang Proving Ground it bought from GM Holden less than 12 months ago for almost $34 million. … “In the long-term future, VinFast still considers Australia as one of its strategic markets.”24 Aug 2021
    And for good measure about future customer relations a quote from Wikipedia “Controversy
    In May 2021, VinFast reported one of its customers, Tran Van Hoang, a Vietnamese YouTuber, to the police over comments that the customer made on his YouTube video about the quality of his VinFast Lux A2.0 car. VinFast claimed that the video contained “untrue content” that “affected the reputation” of the company.[57] On the video, Hoang complained about faults in the tire pressure sensor, the windshield wipers, the wireless phone charger, squeaking doors, and he also complained about his experience with the dealer.[58] The company said it will do the same for ‘similar incidents’ when it enters the North American car market.[57]” Do the same? Buy a car from us and don’t complain, comrade purchaser.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I will not be standing in line to buy one of their EVs. GM has a partnership with VinFast to build a small global car which I fear could eventually come to you nearest Chevy dealer. I wonder if the Chevy dealers will install recycle bins to recycle your expired VinFast Chevy.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    More, more, more!
    More manufacturers, more choices, more competition = lower prices

    • 0 avatar

      Except prices can only get so low in an already saturated market. And with those low prices profits end up razor thin. But shareholders and the board still expect results. So who suffers? The expensive domestic manufacturing facilities and their jobs, as factories close and move to cheaper countries. After all, all you care about is price and competition, not quality or country of origin or unemployment.

      Now your neighbor is unemployed and the government is bailing out a domestic automaker, again, with your tax dollars.

      But enjoy that cheap Vietnamese EV falling apart in your garage.

      Careful what you wish for.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “But enjoy that cheap Vietnamese EV falling apart in your garage.”

        Why do you think it’s going to fall apart? Do you think that’s because it’s being assembled by what you consider an inferior race? They’ve taken steps that if Tesla took, they would have avoided a lot of grief. They hired experienced partners like Magna Steyr and Pininfarina. They built a new factory. I was little, but still somewhat remember when everything from Japan was considered cheap and low quality.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Too much CNN? Everything racist?

          In fact, I remember Russians took a Russian car and Chinese one, and put them under stress. In the weather camera Chinese car started to rust right in front of their eyes. The suspension travel permitted part of it hitting against exhaust pipes – these are the 2 things I remember but there was a long list of problems Chinese car had. It was literally falling apart on the go.

          So, it is very possible for this one also be same way. Will not even go into crash testing. Some Chinese cars had ZERO score just 10 years ago.

          But this is Vietnamese! Haha. May be even worse

  • avatar
    gasser

    This vehicle cannot be priced low enough to get me to try it. An unknown car from a relatively new manufacturer, without a trained and dedicated support of technicians and parts. Already people are complaining about bringing mainstream brand electric cars in for service and the one technician who is trained is off for a few days or weeks. Just try to get a replacement part for something like a door latch or window regulator when there is none in stock locally. Imagine trying to get the damage from a fender bender repaired. Even a now established brand like Tesla has problems with service, and they are local. No thank you.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would buy Slim Fast before I would buy a VinFast.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    They’re both plug fugly, so that would help there case in the good old US of A.

  • avatar
    stuki

    If they were car guys, they’d have the sense to not label a clumsy stiltbox e36…..

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