Vinfast crib sheet: Will we really see the VF 8 or VF 9 electric SUVs in 2022?

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The world of electric vehicle startups feels more like Silicon Valley than Detroit, with company after company arriving with big promises, optimism, and a handful of prototypes—only to fade away a short time later as something even less than a one-hit wonder.

But there are some reasons to believe that VinFast may carve out a different path than its predecessors, given that it isn’t really a startup at all. It’s just the latest branch of Vingroup, a massive Vietnamese company that has its tendrils in a myriad of businesses from hospitals and hotels, to smartphones, and even vehicle manufacturing. Think of Vingroup like Amazon, only if Amazon did more of everything. 

That makes it hard to dismiss VinFast as the flavor of the week, as the company marches towards its aggressive target of selling vehicles in the U.S. within the year. 

Yes, that’s a 2022 market arrival. For models they just showed for the first time in 2021.

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 9 Prototype

VinFast VF 9 Prototype

VinFast invited us to have a closer look at very early prototypes of the VF 8 and the VF 9, in fact they looked suspiciously like the same VF e35 and VF e36 prototypes—really closer to concept cars in the level of finish—we saw at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show (though they’ve since been rebadged to meet Vinfast’s new nomenclature). At this level, only the VF 8 had an interior; the larger VF 9 still had a carpeted interior up to the window sills devoid of details. 

Official specs beyond what was announced in Los Angeles are still hard to come by. We do know that the two SUVs do ride on the same platform, stretched by 7.9-inches underneath the VF 9. Our initial reporting indicated that the VF 8 would come with a single electric motor setup, but on the VinFast reservation website any mention of that model has been scrubbed. The only mentioned specifications are a matching 402-hp output for both models, indicating that both are only going to come with a dual-motor all-wheel drive setup. 

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

At the vehicle display I visited, spec sheets for both vehicles were on display that offered much deeper insight. VinFast tells us that those specifications are not yet finalized and referred us to their website for the official figures. But we think that these do provide some indication of VinFast’s plans for both vehicles, as they’re being shown to the public and prospective buyers. So, take the following with a grain of salt and don’t be surprised to see some changes.

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The spec sheet only made mention of the Eco and Plus versions for both models, leaving off the previously announced Premium trim that will include level 3-4 autonomous driving features—the Eco and Plus only get level 2+ features. Both models are shown to offer a pair of 150-kw motors as the only setup, with Eco versions of the VF 8 offering 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Plus versions of the VF 8 and both variants of the VF 9 are rated at 402 hp and 472 lb-ft, matching what was rumored previously.

Curiously absent from the spec sheet was any mention of battery size, just that each would offer a pair of battery options. Range estimates for the VF 8 were 286 miles and 317 miles on the WLTP cycle, while the VF 9 pushed beyond that to an estimated 301/423 miles of range with its battery options. Fast charging times were listed at 24 minutes from 10-70% of battery for the VF 8 and 26 minutes for the VF 9. 

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VinFast VF 8 Prototype

VinFast VF 8 Prototype

The Eco and Plus versions both get a 15.6-inch center mounted touchscreen and there are some slight feature differences between the two on both models. The Eco features leatherette and heated front seats, while the Plus gets real leather, ventilated front seats, and additional speakers (13 vs. 8).

We were able to confirm that at launch, the VF 8 and VF 9 will both initially be powered by batteries from an external supplier. Though the company’s eventual goal is to supply all of the batteries for its own vehicles, it does not have the capacity to do so at this time. VinFast declined to name who the supplier(s) would be, but said that information would be available in the next few months.

More information will also be coming on the company’s battery subscription model, which will be the first of its kind offered in the U.S. and allow you to buy the car but subscribe to the battery pack based on how much driving you’ll do. We know there will be two tiers: a “Flexible” plan that will cover 300 miles per month with an additional per mile cost after that, and a “Fixed” plan that offers unlimited range. 

VinFast tells us that under this program, the subscription battery will be replaced for free when the charging/discharging capacity falls below 70%—essentially the same as other U.S.-market EVs over their battery warranties, typically eight years.

VinFast VF 9 Prototype

VinFast VF 9 Prototype

The company is also attempting to garner early adoption via an intriguing set of perks for what VinFast is calling “VinFirst—Pioneer’s Gratitude to Pioneers.” For those who reserve a vehicle and put down $200 with a commitment to buy when the vehicles do arrive, they will receive a voucher that’s good for $3,000 off the purchase price of a VF 8 and $5,000 off a VF 9. On top of that, the advanced safety and smart service packages will be included for free, along with a mobile charger. VinFast says that the additional safety feature will make the vehicles Level 3-4 autonomous (versus Level 2+ for the other vehicles), but declined to say specifically which features would be added to accomplish that. And for the travel-inclined, it also includes a week at a three-bedroom beach villa at one of Vinpearl’s hotels in Vietnam, and unlimited admissions to the zoo and golf course. It seems business diversification does come in handy.

All of this makes it hard to get a read on VinFast. It would be easy to lump it in with other failed U.S. ventures from Asia, like Byton and BYD, and there are some reasons for skepticism. The company’s timeline is very aggressive and there are few details regarding all the steps on the way to compliance, sales, service, support, and navigating state rules. There will likely be some delays along the way. 

That said, VinFast showrooms are starting to pop up at malls around the country and the company says it is looking at locations around the U.S. to build another factory, but none has been announced as of this writing.

What we see at the 2022 New York International Auto Show in April will provide more clues as to the company’s timeline and viability. If we only see the same display concepts that floated around in Los Angeles and at CES, it’s hard to see VinFast selling a vehicle this year. But if more substantial, pre-production prototype units arrive and if the powertrain/battery information gets locked down more, then things become more concrete very quickly. 

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