Vietnamese automaker VinFast is opening its first U.S. showrooms in California shopping centers next week on its way to 30 company-run retail locations in the state by year end.
VinFast has chosen Santa Monica, San Diego, San Mateo, Corte Madera, Commerce and Berkeley for its first six showrooms, the company said in an email invitation to ribbon-cutting events on July 14.
The automaker, which is just 5 years old and new to the EV market, also plans to break ground on a North Carolina EV factory and deliver its first vehicles before the year is out.
With its U.S. headquarters established last year in Los Angeles, VinFast has been holding events around California featuring the two-row VF 8 crossover now in development.
The automaker, which is expanding to North America and Europe after selling gasoline vehicles in its home market, delivered its first EVs in Vietnam at the end of last year. That model was smaller than the midsize VF 8 and three-row VF 9 that will launch in the U.S. and Canada.
VinFast is phasing out its gas vehicles in favor of battery-electric vehicles, which are surging in California sales. EVs took a 15 percent market share in the first quarter of the year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.
But VinFast, part of the Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, faces stiff competition from current EV leaders such as Tesla, Ford, Hyundai Motor Group, Volkswagen and General Motors.
The newcomer says it has some advantages over its more established rivals since it aims to sell premium EVs at mostly mainstream prices. But VinFast is also an unknown brand in the U.S. with newly developed products, while competitors have been making EVs for years.
VinFast also plans an unusual sales model that separates the vehicle purchase from the EV battery. At launch, buyers will choose from two battery-lease plans at an extra cost.
“By separating the price of the battery from the acquisition value of the automobile, VinFast takes on all the risks related to the vehicle’s battery and ensures a reasonable price for its products,” the company said in a press release earlier this year.
Analysts have pointed out that EV makers already offer long battery warranties that transfer to future owners. And the combination of VinFast vehicle payments and battery-lease payments may not represent much savings.
Prices start at $40,700 for the base VF 8 and $48,000 for the top trim, not including shipping. The VF 9 starts at $55,500 for the base and $61,000 for the top trim. Those prices are subject to change, according to VinFast’s U.S. website.
The battery lease comes on top of that.
For drivers who don’t rack up a lot of miles, VinFast is offering a flexible plan with a monthly battery subscription of $35 for the VF 8 and $44 for the VF 9. The price includes 310 miles of use.
After that, VinFast will charge 11 cents a mile for the VF 8 and 15 cents for the VF 9.
For unlimited miles, the battery lease will cost $110 a month for the VF 8 and $160 a month for the VF 9. To encourage orders this year, VinFast will freeze the monthly cost of the unlimited plan over the vehicle’s lifetime, the automaker said.
VinFast has said a purchase option including the battery will come in the near future.
The automaker, which has expressed interest in an IPO stock offering to fund its expansion, has suffered recent turnover among top executives, according to Reuters.
Reuters said in June that four senior executives left the EV startup just as it prepares its global expansion.
“The executives who have left are Emmanuel Bret, deputy chief executive officer for global sales; Franck Euvrard, deputy CEO for product development; Hong Bae, deputy CEO for vehicle technology development; and Bruno Tavares, who had been chief finance officer,” Reuters said.
A spokesman for VinFast confirmed the departures to the wire service.
In December, German executive Michael Lohscheller stepped down from his post as CEO of VinFast Global after less than six months on the job. Lohscheller had quit his job as CEO of Stellantis brand Opel to take the VinFast post.
At the time of Lohscheller’s resignation, VinFast said he had left for personal reasons and would return to Europe. In February, U.S. semi-truck startup Nikola Corp. announced that Lohscheller had been named president of Nikola Motor, reporting to CEO Mark Russell.