Vietnam's first domestic automaker is leveraging Italian design along with German and Austrian engineering and manufacturing expertise for its first two production vehicles.
After an extremely short time to market, VinFast debuts a Pininfarina-designed SUV and sedan this month at the Paris auto show. These vehicles will arrive roughly 16 months after the company decided to enter the auto business in June 2017. VinFast — part of Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, Vingroup — is investing more than $3.5 billion to start its automotive operations. This includes a just-completed 500,000-unit greenfield manufacturing complex and an initial lineup of four products.
“For doing in 24 months what others require 36 to 60 months, we needed to partner with the best,” VinFast CEO Jim DeLuca said. The U.S. executive — who was summoned “from a comfortable retirement” after a 37-year career at General Motors that he ended as global head of manufacturing — was hired by VinFast in September 2017. His task: Create an automaker from scratch with plenty of money but not much time.
VinFast’s midsized sedan and SUV are based on BMW technology and thus have similar proportions to the 5 series and X5, respectively. Powering both is a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine licensed by BMW and adapted to VinFast’s needs by Austrian engine specialist AVL. Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen is supplying an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Another Austrian supplier, Magna Steyr, was responsible for the engineering and development of VinFast’s first two models, which are set to go into production in September 2019. At full capacity, combined production of the vehicles is expected to reach 250,000 units a year. By 2025, VinFast forecasts output of half a million vehicles a year.
VinFast will initially concentrate sales in nearby markets in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Exports to Europe and the United States are expected later, the company said without being more specific.
German technology is pervasive in the company’s new $1.5 billion, 500,000-square-meter plant in Dinh Vu near Hai Phong, a major port city in northern Vietnam that is 80 kilometers from the capital of Hanoi. Schuler supplied most of the press shop, while Durr supplied the paint shop and Eisenmann and EBZ the assembly shop. The engine shop relies on FFG and Grob-Werke technology, while Switzerland’s ABB supplied about 1,200 robots for the body shop.
The plant initially will employ 5,000 people. The factory will have three shifts daily and operate 306 days a year. A workweek in Vietnam is 48 hours over six days. A line worker earns the equivalent of $500 to $800 a month, VinFast said.