BERLIN -- Vietnamese automaker VinFast and the economic promotion agency Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) are working together to help the manufacturer find a location for an electric-vehicle plant in Germany.
The factory would build Vinfast electric cars and buses, the automaker said in a statement. The company did not give a target date for when the factory would open.
VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy said Europe will be one of the most important markets for the automaker. "The era of shipping cars around the world is over, especially since there is COVID-19," she said in the statement. "You have to have the factories close to the markets to really attract customers."
VinFast became Vietnam's first fully fledged domestic automaker when its gasoline-powered models went on sale in 2019. It began selling EVs in Vietnam at the end of last year.
"VinFast wants to offer high-quality e-vehicles and a special customer experience at affordable prices," Thuy said. "We are confident we can find a place in the European market, especially since the shift to e-vehicles in Europe is crystal clear."
Thuy, who is vice chairwoman of VinFast parent, Vingroup, took on the VinFast CEO role last month when German executive Michael Lohscheller, formerly head of Opel, unexpectedly stepped down for personal reasons.
The factory could build up to 250,000 cars a year, with production starting around 2025.
Lohscheller created a short-list of five locations for the plant before he quit the automaker, Thuy told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.
"Of those, two are still in the running," she said, without disclosing which ones they were.
A Vinfast delegation had visited one of the potential sites, Thuy said.
VinFast plans to launch sales of full-electric vehicles imported from its factory in Hai Phong, Vietnam in Germany, France and the Netherlands in the spring. It will use a distribution model similar to Tesla’s that does not rely on franchised dealers but sells online and through company-owned stores.
"We congratulate VinFast on its decision to come to Europe's largest economy and the automotive heartland of the continent," GTAI CEO Robert Hermann said in the statement. "Mobility is changing dramatically in Germany and is expected to do so even more under the new government. We are delighted to assist VinFast in finding its ideal location and setting up shop in Germany," he said.
VinFast presented its complete EV fleet at the CES in Las Vegas on Wednesday including two electric SUVs, the VF 8 and VF 9 (previously VF e35 and VF e36). Both were designed by Italy's Pininfarina.
The company said it has opened pre-orders for VF 8 and VF 9. U.S. pricing for the VF 8 starts at $41,000 excluding the battery, which must be leased. Pricing for the three-row VF 9 will starts at $56,000, also excluding the battery.
VinFast is offering a sizable bonus to U.S. buyers willing to make a small deposit while they wait for their electric crossovers to arrive, presumably by the end of the year. The VinFirst early-bird program requires a refundable $200 reservation payment by April 5 in exchange for a $3,000 voucher on the price of a future, two-row VF 8 crossover.
VinFast plans to start producing electric vehicles in the U.S. in the second half of 2024.