HANOI, Jan 23 (dpa): Vinfast, a Vietnamese carmaker that hardly anyone in Europe had heard of until a few months ago, plans to build a new factory in Germany to help it conquer the continental market.
Vinfast is now the second car company this decade to use Germany as a bridgehead into the European market, and Tesla's new factory near Berlin is poised to start producing soon.
Vinfast is a branch of Vietnam's largest industrial conglomerate and the country's first carmaker. Its new European plant will manufacture electric cars from 2025 and probably be located in Germany's Thuringia state.
The company is also launching an electric city bus in Europe which has been tested on the streets of the capital Hanoi.
Although scarcely known in North America either, Vinfast recently presented five electric crossover models at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The company started out making scooters for the home market before launching the Lux 2,0 and Lux SA 2.0A in 2018. Both are licensed versions of BMW Series 5 and X5 which are no longer being built.
Former Opel manager and ex-Vinfast chief Michael Lohscheller said the brand had a market share in Vietnam of around 8 per cent. He has since been replaced by new CEO Le Thi Thu Thu.
In a statement, Le said Vinfast has decided to produce overseas since the era of transporting new cars halfway around the world was now over. A production plant in Europe was part of Vinfast's global strategy.
Many European carmakers already have factories in Asia so it comes as no surprise that Vinfast is following suit.
Vinfast already has a highly-automated factory at Hai Phong in Vietnam which assembles cars using tried and tested components from Europe such as transmission parts from Germany's ZF.
Vinfast unusually offers a 200,000 km guarantee for its current models which include the Pininfarina-styled 4.75m-long VF 9 with 408 horsepower and the even larger seven-eater VF 9. It has a range of 550 km between charges and retails from 58,600 euros in Europe, excluding the monthly battery leasing costs.
The Vingroup focusses on technology, industry, real estate development, retail and services ranging from healthcare to hospitality. The company was founded by property developer and billionaire entrepreneur Pham Nhat Vuong.