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June 14, 2024

Vinfast Is Too Fast For Its Own Good

Real estate ecosystems aren’t new. You will see developers like Ayala and Megaworld construct micro cities here in the Philippines. They have residential condos, buildings for office spaces, entertainment hubs with restaurants and fast-food joints, and a mall among others. The idea is if you choose to live in their area, you have almost everything you need. Eastwood even has its own church for your spiritual needs.

Vingroup, the largest private conglomerate in Vietnam took this to the next level with their subsidiaries. Do you need a home? Vinhomes. Groceries? VinMart supermarkets and VinMart+ convenience stores. Or if you need a mall, there’s VinCom. A place to stay in another place? Vinpearl hotels. Amusement park? Vinwonder. Medical needs? Vinmec has hospitals and clinics. They even have a school in VinSchool and VinUniversity. So where does Vinfast fit in all of this?

Vinfast is simply Vingroup's private transportation solution to their customers. With Vietnam having a healthy car market that sold more than 400,000 cars in 2024 and a global transition to electric vehicles, it makes sense that the conglomerate decided to join the changing automotive field – and they were quick to do it.

Founded in 2017, Vinfast immediately flaunted two Pininfarina-designed cars (one sedan and one crossover) in 2018 that were based on the BMW 5 Series and X5, and started selling it the following year. In 2019, they opened their manufacturing facility just 21 months after the groundbreaking in 2017. They launched their first battery-electric vehicle, the e34, in 2021, and later it was available in Europe. A full switch to EVs was announced in 2022, the same year that the brand entered Canada and the US.

Many brands creating a car from zero will probably take 3 to 5 years from inception to launch. Vinfast literally built a brand from the ground up, produced multiple cars, and even exported them in that same amount of time. So how did they do it?

The key to Vinfast’s pacing is their manufacturing facility. Their massive 335-hectare factory can produce around 300,000 cars a year. That could be even more if they didn’t make motorcycles in the same area. In contrast, Toyota’s Vietnam facility assembles 50,000 units per year while Hyundai produces up to 180,000 units thanks to a new factory.

But are they too fast, too furious?

During our tour of Vinfast’s Press Shop, Body Shop, and General Assembly facility, the section heads all boast of the machines they imported from the west, how their quality checking has numerous processes, how automated machines do most of the work, and their capability to put out thousands of units per year. However, the cars told a different story.

I’m saving my impressions for another article but you can do a quick Google search on it. Their international flagship model, the VF8, was decimated in reviews by western media. The common complaint was there were too many issues, it looked like the car was not ready for the public. Mind you, the cars being lent out to reviewers are not prototypes. They are already displayed for sale in their country’s showrooms.

Vinfast is similar to Tesla cars in that their companies do not have an automotive backbone. Their difference is that Tesla focused on developing one car for five years before unveiling another, while Vinfast already has eight in its portfolio in their seven years of existence. What’s more, Vinfast doesn’t have a visible partnership with any automaker. After one generation of the Pininfarina-designed LUX cars—the ones based on a BMW—they moved everything in-house including research and development. The most they’ll say is that they have suppliers from Europe, end of story. No mention of what information or products are being shared by these suppliers.

To Vinfast’s credit, they listen to criticisms hurled their way. I remember Donut Media having a second review of the VF8 and they admit that some of their comments from the first video were addressed. However, that brings forth another set of questions. Are early adopters their test subjects? How do they test these cars? Are they even pitting them against their rival brand’s offerings? Can they keep making after-sales corrections to all vehicles perpetually?

The Philippines is not hostile towards new brands entering the market. You can see the proof with Geely and MG now consistent in the top 10 sales rankings overall. However, our relatively small market isn’t one to be taken lightly. Most buyers here are well informed before making a decision. Also, many current car owners have generational experience with cars and have the guidance of those older and wiser than them in the matter. Vinfast’s glossy and grandiose marketing can certainly get them the attention of the public but as some Chinese brands found out, word of mouth can be fatal here. I won’t deny that Vinfast’s heart is in the right place – to provide green mobility that’s more attainable by the masses. I just hope the cars that will make its way to the Philippines are more mechanically sound.

Words and Photos by Vincent Villa

1 comment:

  1. Vinfast just needs to improve the build quality and reliability of its EVs which they can surely do
    VF3 and VF5 are Vinfast's entries to the more affordable mass market EVs which Vietnamese and Asian EV buyers want..Looking forward to see the VF3 mini EV be available in the Philippine market someday


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