Monday, January 17, 2022

Vietnamese startup VinFast banks on battery rentals as key part of unfolding EV strategy

But not everyone is enthusiastic about a sales model that relies on separately leased batteries.

“Customers will only embrace it if there is something in it for them,” said Mike Ramsey, senior research director at global tech consulting firm Gartner. “If that lease means that in two years, their battery gets upgraded to a longer-range battery at the same price, then yes. If this leads to a net cheaper car, yes. If it’s just an unbundling that serves only the manufacturer, then no. It’s just a gimmick in that case.”

But Thuy says the rental approach is merely one way it intends to separate itself from the onslaught of EV upstarts hoping to find a foothold in the market.

VinFast, a subsidiary of Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, began deliveries of its first electric SUV in its home market last month. It intends to phase out production of cars with internal-combustion engines and deliver six EVs to international markets by the middle of 2023. That includes two models, the e35 and e36, that made their debut in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Last week at CES, the company detailed pricing for those two models, with the midsize e35 — now called the VF 8 — starting at $41,000 and the three-row e36 —renamed the VF 9 — starting at $56,000. Of course, those prices are without the battery.

“It’s something new and probably takes some time for people to understand this, but we’ve put ourselves in our customers’ position, and we want to make this worry-free, simple and seamless,” said Van Anh Nguyen, VinFast’s U.S. CEO. “There is a lot of anxiety concerning the battery, and we take that anxiety away.”

The three new EVs, battery rental model and pricing were part of a sweeping set of plans VinFast detailed at CES. The company is partnering with global supplier ZF for driver-assistance features and automated-parking functionality. Next up, the company will continue its search for a U.S. manufacturing center.

From CES, Thuy said she will travel to three sites that are finalists for an American factory that will include production of vehicles and battery packs, as well as electric buses.

She said the objective is a plant to accommodate 250,000 EVs a year.

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