VinFast showrooms opening this week in California

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Electric vehicle startup VinFast has been making its U.S. debut plans known for some time. The Vietnamese automaker has two SUVs queued up to sell here, and the public will be able to see them for the first time as soon as this week.

According to a report from Automotive News, VinFast is scheduled to open six showrooms in California this Thursday, July 14. Like Tesla, they are not dealerships per se. The showrooms will give potential buyers a place to ask questions, look at the car, schedule a test drive and configure one for purchase, but they will be direct-to-customer sales. They'll circumvent the traditional dealership system and will be located in high-traffic areas like shopping centers in Santa Monica, San Diego, San Mateo, Corte Madera, Commerce and Berkeley.

The move may be a good one, as the article points out that the California New Car Dealers Association says EVs took 15% of the market in the first quarter of 2022. Nationally, the percentage of electric sales is below 3.

The two models are dubbed the VF8, which is around the size of a Volkswagen Tiguan, and the larger VF9. The dual-motor VF8 will have the option of 348-horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque in the base Eco trim for $40,700, or a more powerful Plus trim generating 402 horses and 457 pound-feet for $48,000. The VF9 will only be available with the latter drivetrain and will cost $55,500 for the base and $61,000 for the top trim.

Notably, however, these prices don't include the battery. VinFast says that initially batteries will be leased in order to assuage concerns about the high cost of replacement. Two batteries packs will be offered, an 82 kilowatt-hour standard-range unit will offer approximately 260 miles in range for the Eco, and 248 for the Plus. An extended-range 87.7 kilowatt-hour capacity will bump those numbers to 292 and 277, respectively.

The battery lease starts at $35 a month for the VF8 and $44 for the VF9. The plan includes 310 miles, and exceeding the limit will cost 11 cents a mile for the VF8, or 15 cents a tick for the VF9. Don't worry, there's an unlimited mileage plan as well, which will cost $110 a month and $160 a month for the VF8 and VF9, respectively. Automotive News says that VinFast will freeze the monthly cost for the lifetime of the vehicle to encourage orders this year, implying that these rates might increase as time goes on.

With the lease, VinFast will replace the batteries for free once they can no longer charge above 70%. The company will also offer the option of purchasing the battery entirely for a one-time cost sometime in 2024.

VinFast's ambitious plan has seen the establishment of a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles last year, but these first six showrooms are just the beginning. It plans to deliver its first cars, open 24 more U.S. showrooms, and break ground on a North Carolina factory by the end of the year.

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