From the outside looking in, it seems VinFast succeeded in hitting its target delivery date at the price of failing the customer. The young EV automaker said repeatedly this year that it planned to deliver the first examples of the VF 8 battery-electric SUV to reservation holders before 2022 ended. The Silver Queen cargo ship left Vietnam in late November, disgorging 999 VF 8's at the port of Benicia, north of San Francisco, in December. Then came the ol' switcheroo. Every unit on the cargo ship was a previously unheard of "limited release" variant called the City Edition set aside "for VinFirst Pioneer customers only," the first among the reservation holders. In a letter to expectant shoppers, VinFast said the City Edition's "early release [was] to meet the demand of VinFast vehicle lovers" and offers a range of "approximately" 180 miles instead of the 260-mile range promised in April this year.
The City Edition's smaller range comes courtesy of a smaller 82-kWh battery instead of the 87.7-kWh battery in the series production VF 8. The bad news continues with VinFast's retail site claiming 179 EPA-estimated miles, not 180. The company says an OTA update in January will improve range, but didn't say by how much.
The automaker's also delayed its battery subscription program that was going to cost $169 per month for the VF 8 and give customers unlimited miles. The relevant page on the retail site now says, "At this time all vehicles are sold or leased inclusive of battery," and the vehicle warranty lasts for 10 years or 125,000 miles. With the subscription once touted as a way to save money on leasing or ownership, its end could help explain why prices have gone up on the series production models. In April, VinFast expected to sell a VF 8 Eco with a 260-mile range for $41,200 after the $1,200 destination fee, a VF 8 Plus with a 277-mile range costing $49,200. Now, the City Edition Eco starts at $56,700, the City Edition Plus starts at $63,700, the base VF 8 Eco starts at $60,200.
For comparison, a 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium with e-AWD and the standard battery with 224 miles of range starts at $58,975, if you could find one.
VinFast offered the VinFirst Pioneers a $6,000 total discount for switching to the City Edition, but it's possible the number of aggrieved reservation holders compelled a change of strategy. Instead of the letter's assertion that the model was only for early adopters, VinFast's retail website now shows a pop up offering a 24-month lease deal to California residents who want the City Edition. With $5,774 due at signing, the City Edition Eco will cost $599 per month and offer 10,000 miles per year. A 36-month lease offer asks $6,869 down and $574 per month. The City Edition Plus needs $6,789 due at signing, then costs $699 per month for 10,000 miles per year for 24 months.
Back to ranges, there could be more questions on the way for the series models. On VinFast's U.S. site, the reservation page containing specs for the VF 8 and VF 9 also include asterisks next to their range figures of "up to 292 miles" and "up to 342 miles," respectively. On that page, the explanation given for both is, "Value valid for VF 8 Eco Enhanced Range trim level (battery variant 2). Preliminary values, determined according to the principles of the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) Standard." All of which means the various numbers VinFast is using here might not end up being the numbers the EPA uses.
It's early days for the company here, and news cycles turn quickly. Nevertheless, we think VinFast's local reps are going to be busy for a while getting everything headed in the desired direction again.