Autozine: What is the purpose of Vinfast?
Vinfast wants to accelerate the transition to electric driving. We see that the development in the established order is going too slowly. Vinfast therefore sees a gap in the market.
Autozine: What is the main difference between a conventional brand and Vinfast?
Vinfast is new, and that’s why we don’t get stuck in procedures to reach a decision. Management only outlines the broad outlines. Professionals determine how to achieve these goals. This is a big difference with other companies, where every step must be approved by the management. At Vinfast, it is the specialists who decide why we can act much faster.
Or to put it another way: We take steps that the established order is not yet able or unwilling to take. In addition, our working method ensures a much shorter lead time from design to production, which is to our advantage. On average, it takes about 5 years to design a car, with the risk that some things are already out of date by the time the model hits the market. We have developed no less than four cars within four years, and they all offer the latest technology.
Autozine: What is Vinfast’s history?
The brand started in 2017 and introduced the first cars in 2018, then only for the Vietnamese market. These were subcutaneous BMS’w, but the exterior and entire interior were modified. The first cars had a combustion engine, which means that Vinfast cannot stand out on the world market. These models were therefore only intended to gain experience. Only now, when we offer electric cars, is it time to enter the global market.
Autozine: So Vinfast has little experience yet, how can you compete?
Vinfast may be a Vietnamese company, but it focuses on the world. That is why design studios and production facilities have been set up all over the world from the start. We have offices where the specialists are located. For example, my colleagues and I got our bearings at GM and are now applying that expertise to Vinfast.
In addition, Vinfast has for the time being chosen to outsource a large amount of work. The designer does not work alone, but works together with well-known designers such as Pininfarina. Parts that Vinfast cannot yet make themselves are bought from specialists. This has the advantage that we can immediately deliver the same quality as existing brands, because we buy from the same suppliers.
Autozine: Is Vinfast cheaper than other brands?
None. If we conquer the market on price, it is a huge job to get rid of the cheap image. That is why we are already targeting the “premium” market, although in fairness it should be mentioned that there are different levels of premium. Vinfast starts at the lower end of the premium market.
Autozine: Does a Vinfast have a typical Vietnamese appearance?
None. Vietnam currently has no reputation for industrial products. Vietnam is mostly associated with spring rolls, and that is not a good starting point for the image of a car manufacturer. We also don’t like fitting cars with bamboo panels or other clichés. Our mission is to accelerate the transition to electric driving worldwide, which is why we choose a style that will appeal worldwide.
Within the house style, however, we make much larger adjustments per model than other brands. Recognition is especially nice for the manufacturer, but the customer is looking for a car and not a brand. Our largest model, the VF 9, is aimed at the US market and aims to entice customers to trade their large gas-guzzling SUV for an electric SUV. They want a tough, unyielding car and not a streamlined UFO or a good guy. Conversely, the smaller models give more room for innovation and have a much more modern design.
Autozine: Can you tell us more about the battery technology used?
Vinfast currently buys all cells from Samsung. We make our own battery pack. Samsung gives us the parameters of the cells. We build the software that determines how the battery is used within these parameters. Think about what reserve is maintained, to what extent it is cooled or heated, how quickly it charges and how quickly it discharges.
However, this is only a first step. We are already active behind the scenes to develop battery cells ourselves. In fact, Vinfast has the ambition to become an energy supplier itself and offer all kinds of “last mile” solutions. We are also working on solutions for charging at home and generating energy at home.
Although the current models are not yet capable of bi-directional charging, this is supposed to be added with the next facelift. Within the foreseeable future, it will almost be a requirement that electric cars can act as a buffer for the energy grid. Furthermore, EV owners want to make extra money by speculating on the price of electricity (charging when the price is low, delivering back when the price is high).
Autozine: What about infotainment?
The sound, communication and navigation system was developed by ourselves. It runs on Linux with Android apps on top. As standard, the cars are equipped with an unbranded amplifier and unbranded speakers. We are still in dialogue with suppliers about an optional hi-fi system, with Meridian being the most likely partner.
Autozine: Does Vinfast also work with self-driving cars?
Yes, but not more than other brands. For this we purchase standard components. These are sensors and the associated computers. The computers have ready-to-use software to recognize objects. For example, we can already now offer level 2+ self-driving functions, just like the established order.
In-house we work on level 4 self-driving cars. However, Vinfast does not have the ambition to become an IT company with huge servers to train its own model for artificial intelligence.
Autozine: Is there also attention to environmentally friendly production?
Of course! The advantage of a new brand is that we can immediately put the latest production techniques into use and do not have to wait until old machines are depreciated.
In addition, we pay attention to environmentally friendly materials. The most important of these is vegan leather. We have done a blind test with customers from Asia, America and Europe. Our vegan leather has always been proven to be the best in terms of feel and look; better than leather from cattle! Only nappa leather scored even higher, but considering the price, we had no plans to offer this anyway.
Leather is very harmful to the environment due to its origin from animal husbandry. But processing hides into a slim and uniform material causes even more pollution. The vegan leather was not only valued higher than cow leather, but it is also much cheaper for us. Therefore, we can afford to cover a much larger part of the interior with it, which in turn ensures a higher quality appearance.
Autozine: Last question: how does a Vinfast drive?
At the time of the interview, Vinfast is presenting itself to the world during the Paris Motor Show 2022 and test drives are not yet possible. What the designers can say is that Vinfast focuses on the general public. So don’t expect crushing performance or pronounced handling. A Vinfast must be functional and safe, it is not a fun car for enthusiasts.
However, Vinfast makes optimal use of the possibilities that an electric car offers. Therefore, there is no old-fashioned key or button to start the engine. When the seat belt is fastened and “drive” is selected, the car turns on and starts moving. Starting is something for internal combustion engines. In addition, the driver can determine in steps how much energy is recovered when the power pedal is released. In the extreme position, it is possible to drive with one pedal. Unfastening the seat belt, choosing “parking” and getting out is enough to turn off the car again.