HAIPHONG, Vietnam -- Vietnam’s VinFast began handing its first batch of 100 full-electric SUVs to local customers, with U.S. deliveries of the vehicle due to begin as soon as December.
VinFast, which began operations in 2019, is gearing up to expand in the U.S. market, where it hopes to compete with legacy automakers and startups with its two electric SUVs, the VF8 and VF9, including battery leasing to reduce the purchase price.
"The first batch of 5,000 VF8 units will be for U.S. and North American markets. Mass production will start from next week," VinFast's global CEO, Le Thi Thu Thuy, told Reuters on the sidelines of a delivery ceremony at its plant in Vietnam's northern province of Haiphong.
VinFast, part of Vingroup, said in a release that Europe will be included in that initial batch of 5,000 units. VinFast will start shipping cars overseas in November and customers will have cars delivered as soon as December, Thuy said.
The company has registered almost 65,000 reservations globally, and it expects to sell 750,000 EVs per year by 2026, starting with the VF8 and VF9 SUVs.
In March, VinFast said it would build a production plant in North Carolina with an initial projected capacity of 150,000 EVs a year. It tapped banks in July to raise least $4 billion in funding for the project.
Earlier this year, the automaker said it was searching for a location for an EV plant in Germany to build cars and buses.
VinFast has said Europe will be one of the most important markets for the automaker.
Nguyen Khac Chung was among the first local customers to have their cars delivered at Saturday's event.
"I thought I had to wait until November to get my car delivered but I was surprised that the waiting time was cut short," said Chung, who ordered his EV in January, just two months after the model was introduced.
"Battery leasing is an advantage for customers," he added. "Why should we buy the battery?"
The VF8 and VF9 SUVs will start at $42,200 and $57,500 respectively for U.S. customers, excluding the cost to lease the battery.
In Europe the VF8 will start at 46,050 euros and the VF9 at 62,750 euros, excluding the cost to lease the battery, which is 120 euros a month for the VF8 and 150 euros a month for the VF9.