Vietnamese automaker VinFast isn't entering the U.S. market thinking conventionally nor small. At last year's Los Angeles Auto Show, VinFast showed the VFe35 two-row crossover and VFe36 three-row crossover. Those have since been renamed the VF8 and VF9, respectively, simplifying model designations for the entire lineup. Over the Christmas holiday, in Vietnam, VinFast showed the micro VFe34 for that country. And at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, VinFast brought the A-segment VF5, B-segment VF6, and C-segment VF7. That gives the manufacturer a full line of electric vehicles barely three years after it debuted its first production car, which was a BMW X5 that had been reworked for the company's home market.
Speed and show cars are easy. Convincing U.S. buyers to take a chance on the product, then getting quality product into buyer's hands in a timely manner — those will be the tests. As for convincing, VinFast has come up with novel lures. The first is that U.S. car shoppers who pre-order a VF8 or VF9 from now until April 5, 2022, and put down a $200 deposit can convert that $200 into a four-figure discount on the crossover they buy through the VinFirst Pioneers Program. VinFast will give buyers $3,000 off the final price of their VF8 or $5,000 off the price of their VF9. Pioneer membership also nets a free resort tour package in Vietnam (Pioneers have to get themselves to Vietnam).
The automaker believes it has priced the VF8 and VF9 in line with ICE-powered competitors, the VF8 in base Eco trim starting around $41,000 and topping out around $48,000 for the Premium trim. This one is said to be about the size of a Ford Edge, which starts at $36,700 in base S spec and tops out at $45,500 for the Edge ST. Based on what VinFast has said about its content strategy, we expect a similarly equipped Edge would be much closer to the VF8's price. The VF9 Eco will start around $56,000 and run to around $61,000 for the VF9 Premium. The three-row crossover is a few inches longer than a Ford Explorer. Those prices are before incentives.
As for powertrains, all we've been given so far is output and range. The e-motors in the VF8 and VF9 will produce a combined 402 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. The VF8 is said to have a range on the European cycle of 316 miles, the VF9 and its larger battery are claimed to go about 422 miles, again, on the European cycle.
There's an asterisk on pricing, though: Those MSRPs don't include the cost of the battery, because the pack can only be leased on one of two plans. A flexible plan includes 300 miles per month, a more expensive fixed plan offers unlimited miles. We don't know the price of either plan, VinFast only saying the plans will cost around the same as the monthly gas budget for conventionally-powered crossover, minus the cost of electricity. We look forward to finding out how VinFast plans to implement and keep track of this, since U.S. gas prices can fluctuate by more than two dollars per gallon depending on the state, and that's before electricity prices are factored in. Also, 300 miles per month seems less than ideal for anyone who ready to go through the trouble of buying a new car, unless that person has four other cars at home. However, once an owner has the keys, the automaker will provide free battery maintenance and replace a pack free of charge once the pack can't hold at least 70% of its original capacity. The vehicle itself comes with a 10-year warranty.
The base Eco and middle Plus trims will provide Level 2 autonomy developed with ZF, the Premium trim is being developed to eventually provide Level 3 or Level 4 autonomy. The driver assistance menu will include tech like adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-keeping assist, automatic lane changing, and automated parking and summoning. Another potential reason to become a Pioneer: They are spared the subscription fees for the ADAS and Smart Service packages for their vehicles.
Starting with states where EV sales are high, like California, the carmaker plans to skip traditional dealerships and set up showrooms in upscale malls. About 60 such storefronts are planned for California. Come 2024, VinFast aims to open its first U.S. manufacturing facility that can churn out up to 250,000 units per year. There will also be a large battery factory and a bus-making factory, VinFast planning to sell electric busses in the U.S. market. The site location hasn't been chosen yet but has been narrowed to one of three places.