VinFast Is Bringing a Mini SUV to America. Is the Struggle Over?

VinFast VF 3 was presented at CES 2024 7 photos
Photo: VinFast
VinFast VF 3 was presented at CES 2024VinFast VF 3 was presented at CES 2024VinFast VF WildVinFast VF WildVinFast VF 8The VinFast lineup
Five years ago, nobody had heard anything about VinFast. The company was just seeing the light of day in a country the West was not even aware that it had a car industry. Now, VinFast is bringing a small-size crossover to America.
The Vietnamese brand unveiled the VF 3 at CES 2024 and confirmed that it will be available worldwide, the United States included. The carmaker had first shown the VF 3 in June 2023. At the time, it was only destined for the local market. However, the popularity of the brand kept skyrocketing, and soon, VinFast entered other markets.

The VF 3 mini-SUV measures only 125.6 inches (3,190 millimeters) in length, 66.1 inches (1,679 millimeters) in width, and 63.8 inches (1,621 millimeters) in height. It has two doors and four (probably very cramped) seats. Just to get an idea of how small it actually is, consider that the tiny Suzuki Jimmy is 156.9 inches (3,985 millimeters).

It rides on 16-inch wheels, and there is a 10.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity on board. A small battery pack provides it with an EPA-estimated range of 125 miles (201 kilometers).

It may not sound like much, but VinFast will bring the car to the US market with a price to match all those numbers. We will know the exact pricing closer to its launch date in the US. VinFast will start accepting early reservations later this year. That is probably when they will release information on powertrain, performance, and range.

VinFast VF Wild
Photo: VinFast
The Vietnamese company is also considering sending a pickup to the American market. It is called VF Wild, it is powered by a fully electric powertrain and measures 209 inches (5,308 millimeters) in length.

Those are numbers which send the model straight into the same segment as the Ford Ranger, with not a single chance to fight much bigger and popular electric trucks such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, or Chevrolet Silverado EV.

The pickup sports what the carmaker calls 'a clever midgate,' which allows the expansion of the load bed from 5.0 to 8.0 feet by folding down the rear seats. That would turn the cargo space into one similar to that offered by full-size pickup trucks.

VinFast is not planning to slow down and is already selling cars in the United States. The carmaker opened six dealerships in California in the summer of 2022. The company will also start building cars in the US. An assembly plant in Chatham County, North Carolina, with a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year, will start to operate in 2025, creating 7,500 jobs in the area.

The VinFast lineup
Photo: VinFast
That is where VinFast will build the VF7 compact SUV and the VF 8. Meanwhile, the VF9 three-row SUV should enter production sometime in 2025. The VF 6 and the VF 7 will follow shortly. They are also set to end up in the United States.

Nobody outside Vietnam had heard about VinFast six years ago

Emerging from a country with zero auto industry outside the country, VinFast struggled right from the start. But they wanted to hit it big. That is why they contacted Pininfarina, BMW, and Magna Steyr to help them work on their models.

Founded in 2017, they were already in Paris by 2018 for the auto show. They took their first two models to the French capital: the LUX SA2.0 and the LUX A2.0, both designed by Pininfarina and both based on previous-generation BMW cars. Both were available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and both were powered by BMW’s N20 turbocharged petrol engine with either 175 horsepower or 227 horsepower. The models entered production in 2019.

VinFast was on the verge of becoming the first volume automotive manufacturer in Vietnam, but also the first carmaker from the country to join major auto shows around the world.

The first factory set up by the brand started operating in September 2017 in an 828-acre (3,350,000-square meter) industrial park on Cat Hai Island, not far from the city of Hai Phong. The facility included a paint shop, a press shop, an assembly shop, and, of course, an engine shop. Everything was ready in just 21 months, following an investment of $1.5 billion.

VinFast VF 8
Photo: VinFast
In 2018, VinFast announced a partnership with General Motors that gave them the exclusive rights to distribute Chevrolet models in Vietnam. Following the transaction, VinFast also took ownership of the General Motors factory in Hanoi, Korea.

On March 21, 2019, the first batch of VinFast-branded vehicles was sent to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The batch included 155 LUX cars, 113 of them completed and 42 semi-finished. All were to undergo quality and safety testing.

By the end of 2022, the carmaker had only sold 7,400 cars, all of them going to Vietnamese customers. The numbers seemed terribly far from their target for 2023: 50,000 cars sold worldwide in 2023. The first showroom outside Vietnam opened its gates in Toronto on November 16, 2022. Then, Santa Monica followed.

In January 2022, VinFast, reading between the lines of the auto industry, decided to completely ditch internal combustion engines and focus on rolling out electric cars only. It was 'the sooner, the better' type of strategy. And it turned out it was a winning move. The moment they started selling EVs, orders started pouring in. In the first 48 hours, they received more than 24,000 orders, 15,237 of them being for the VF 8 and 9,071 for the VF 9.
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