Cars > Electric

Let’s get up to speed with VinFast

There’s a lot to unpack with Vietnam’s car company

VinFast has a diverse lineup of electric cars. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The rise of VinFast is a breath of fresh air amid the sea of Chinese car brands flooding the market. Not long after the launch of VinFast Philippines, we were given the opportunity to fly to Vietnam and get to know the EV manufacturer a bit better. To truly appreciate this young company, a history lesson is needed.

Pham Nhat Vuong is the wealthiest man in Vietnam. PHOTO FROM VINFUTURE PRIZE

Pham Nhat Vuong is a Vietnamese math prodigy who studied mining in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In 1993, the USSR was no more, and he began a processed-food company known as Technocom Corporation in Ukraine. Instant noodles might not be the most glamorous product, but it was a hit among people who were poor and were starving amid political turmoil.

The author stayed overnight at a Vinpearl resort in Ha Long.
You'd be forgiven for mistaking the Vinhomes neighborhood for the American suburbs.
Vinschool is Vingroup's nonprofit private school with multiple campuses.
VinUniversity has collaborations with Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

After taking a beach trip to the coastal city of Nha Trang in southern Vietnam, he decided to build an island resort there, which resulted in the founding of Vinpearl in 2003. Complementing the tourism business is Vincom, a retail company known for its shopping malls. The two merged in 2012 resulting in what is now known as Vingroup, the country’s largest conglomerate.

Mega Grand World is a giant lifestyle and entertainment hub located on the outskirts of Hanoi. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The presence of Vingroup in the daily lives of the Vietnamese is far-reaching. Imagine being born in a Vinmec hospital, living in a Vinhomes property, studying at Vinschool, graduating from VinUniversity, working at a “Vin-company,” and shopping at a Vincom mall—all while being transported in a VinFast or a VinBus vehicle. Just like SM, Vingroup has got it all for you.

The author was toured around the different shops in the VinFast factory. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Having lots of money is nice, but that won’t mean anything to a car manufacturer if it doesn’t have the proper facilities. VinFast HQ is located in Hai Phong, around 120km from Hanoi. It covers an area of 3.35sq-km and has a target capacity of 300,000 electric cars and 250,000 e-scooters per year. Yes, you heard that right. VinFast doesn’t just make passenger cars, but also electric two-wheelers and electric buses for VinBus.

To someone who has visited automotive plants before, the VinFast factory doesn’t look that different from modern plants. Although that’s actually impressive considering Vietnam is not that far ahead of us, based on GDP per capita. Industry 4.0 is the key buzzword that refers to the high degree of automation in different manufacturing shops.

VinFast VF 5.
VinFast VF e34.
VinFast VF 7.

The parent company is rich, and the factory is high-tech. But how are the vehicles themselves? Two hours isn’t enough for a deep dive, but it was enough to get a basic grasp of each of the models that will be coming to our market. Overall, what stood out to me was the diversity of the build quality across the lineup.

The VF 5 is the entry-level model being the smallest and cheapest of the bunch that is probably targeted at first-time car buyers. The VF e34 is slightly bigger and has more features. The additional cargo space makes it suitable for fleets as seen in the plentiful taxis. If you’re wondering about its odd name, that’s because the VF e34 was the first EV model of VinFast.

The VF 7 is the crowd favorite for its style, space, and power. It looks like a good match for well-established families, being premium but not luxurious. Meanwhile, the VF 9 is Vinfast’s attempt at making a land yacht for VIPs and politicians. As much as we wanted to see the VF 3, the units were still in production.

The infotainment system will be a nightmare for those who aren't tech-savvy. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Another highlight of the trip was the meet-and-greet session with the deputy CEO of VinFast’s vehicle development institution, Stuart Kinkade. He described VinFast’s vehicles as a smart device on four wheels. The software is key. That’s why the in-house team is continuously working to ensure that updates can be rolled out when necessary.

I personally experienced this while playing Baja Big Air in the VF 9 as I waited for my turn to go around the test track. The one thing all models share—aside from the design language—is the center screen, which serves as the main interface between the driver and the car.

And in the higher-end models, there is no instrument panel on the dashboard, only a heads-up display. I’m not a fan of the complexity of the infotainment system, especially with how it is necessary for basic functions such as climate control.

VinFast is also responsible for setting up charging stations for its electric cars. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Journalists were quick to ask about after-sales given recent issues experienced by Filipino consumers. In response, VinFast Philippines CEO Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc said there would be a warehouse for spare parts.

Kinkade also gave some assurance. Obviously, the Philippines isn’t the brand’s first market, being the third in Southeast Asia outside Vietnam, so VinFast should be aware and prepared for the common issues encountered by users.

Do you think VinFast will succeed in the Philippines? PHOTO FROM VINFAST

This crash course in the history of VinFast taught us that the brand’s progress in the past couple of years was, er, fast. While it is far from being world-class, the sky is the limit as far as the room for improvement and growth.

As for VinFast Philippines, if it can deliver on the promise of good products with reliable after-sales service at a reasonable price, then perhaps Filipinos will be more open to automobiles made by our Southeast Asian neighbor.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.