The global automotive market is dominated by several major players from Japan, Europe and the United States. Some companies from South Korea and India are also major players in the automotive world. In the recent years, a few automakers from China are making some noise. How about a carmaker from Vietnam?
Here comes VinFast, a virtually unknown carmaker – at least in the global scene --- based in Ha Noi, Vietnam. Seeing itself as brand for Vietnamese cars, VinFast is a part of the VinGroup, a $10-billion conglomerate in Vietnam that is involve in operating shopping malls, resorts, spas, hospitals and schools as well as apartment complexes in the country. Led by 50-year richest man in Vietnam, billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, VinGroup is venturing into industrial manufacturing through VinFast.
As part of its plan, VinFast will initially focus on the Vietnamese market, as the country’s GDP growth is expected to grow between six to seven percent annually. Then, the Vietnamese carmaker will set its eyes on other markets, especially in Southeast Asia.
For a strong launch, VinFast acquired the services of several veterans in the global auto industry, even hiring former executives from General Motors. Sitting on top of the carmaker as the chief executive is Jim DeLuca, who served as Executive Vice President of GM Global Manufacturing until his retirement in 2016. Another former GM executive who found his way to VinFast is David Lyon. Lyon was formerly the chief of GM Europe Design and now serves as Director of Design at VinFast. Shaun Calbert, VinFast’s Vice President of Manufacturing and Engineering was also from GM.
Leading VinFast’s charge into the automotive industry are two vehicles – a sedan and a sports utility vehicle – that are a result of partnerships with known players in the industry. VinFast plans to make itself known by officially unveiling its first creations at the upcoming 2018 Paris Motor Show.
To come up with the designs of the upcoming VinFast sedan and SUV, the Vietnamese carmaker held a styling competition, with participation from four renowned Italian design firms, like Pininfarina and Italdesign. The Vietnamese public was then asked to vote on 20 submitted designs, making sure that the vehicles have a direction connection with its target market. In the end, more than 62,000 votes were counted and Pininfarina emerged victorious from the styling shootout, and the results are the still unnamed VinFast sedan and SUV that will be unveiled in Paris next month.
The sedan features a long bonnet, horizontal body lines and classic trunk, while the SUV boasts of a more muscular hood and bold, purposeful character lines. Both VinFast vehicles feature a distinctive front grille with an asymmetric VF motif. Centrally located is a symmetric chrome V emblem, with an italicized F-motif created by combining a horizontal chrome splint with the LED daytime running lights.
Both the new VinFast sedan and SUV are underpinned by the same platforms used by the previous generation of the BMW 5-Series sedan and the BMW X5 SUV. This makes them re-bodied versions of the 5 Series sedan and X5, although Lyon vowed that VinFast’s models won't be clones of BMW’s creations. Interestingly, VinFast is licensed not only to use BMW’s platform, but also to manufacture a BMW 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine, which means that this mill could be found inside the Vietnamese carmaker’s offerings at launch.
Aside from licensing BMW tech, VinFast inked partnerships with global suppliers like ABB, Bosch, Magna Steyr and Siemens. It also acquired a former GM factory in Ha Noi and is building a new plant in Hai Phong. VinFast is working as fast as possible to ensure that its stamping, paint, engine and paint plants – which were next to empty in late August – are fully online when it starts production of prototypes by the end of the year. The carmaker also plans to introduce the new sedan and SUV to the Vietnamese public at the end of the year. VinFast intends to commence sales of these new models in the second quarter of 2019.