VinFast - Follow The Birth Of A Car Company Using BMW Tech And Italian Design From Pininfarina
I am thinking of using the word "disruptive" for VinFast’s bold plan, but I’m not quite sure yet...by Safet Satara, on
Who can actually give birth to a new car company? The process can be jump-started with innovative technology ( think Tesla or Rimac), or created from scratch by a really, really massive company like Hyundai or Lexus. In this case, I am writing about the birth of the first car company from Vietnam, ever. Called VinFast, the first Vietnamese automotive producer may sound like a joke at first. It is anything but. Behind it is the largest Vietnamese private conglomerate Vingroup JS. It is backed by automotive minds from the depths of the American and European car industry, its foundation is German technology, and its soul is Italian design. If you ever thought that money couldn’t buy a car company, think again, because I think VinFast is the definition of money making/buying a car company.
This is a car company built from scratch after the completion of a complicated business plan with a bunch of SWOT analysis, market research, and competition assessment. Welcome, VinFast.
What is VinFast?
With a vision of becoming the “leading vehicle manufacturer in Southeast Asia,” VinFast is the first Vietnamese car company and is led by James DeLuca, Former Vice President of Manufacturing at General Motors.
The company has R&D and production facilities in Vietnam, yet most of the technology used for the cars VinFast plans to produce were found elsewhere. The company partnered with Siemens, Bosch, Magna International, Pininfarina, and BMW, among others.
Interestingly enough, the VinFast name doesn’t actually have anything to do with velocity. Instead, the Vin part stands for Vietnam, while the FAST part is a sort of an acronym. In Vietnamese, FAST stands for F (Phong Cach) - style, A (An Toan) - safety, S (Sang tao) - innovation, T (Tien Phong) - pioneer.
With the reveal of two new cars - an SUV and a Sedan - at the upcoming 2018 Paris Motor Show, VinFast will officially enter the car market and introduce itself to the world.
Who owns VinFast?
Owned by a Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup JS, VinFast basically became a subsidiary of a massive company that specializes in real estate, amusement parks, and retail.
Along with James DeLuca, leading the company is Vo Quang Hue, Deputy CEO of Vingroup.
Apparently, he was the one who sealed the deal with many international companies and, effectively, enabled the creation of the all-new car brand.
In an interview with Vietnamese The Leader, Hue said:
"I am a master in mechanics after graduating from a university in Germany. I am interested in the automobile engine and always dream of doing something for the domestic automobile industry. Therefore, when I knew that Vuong [Vingroup founder] made investment, I decided to join".
VinFast’s Cooperation With BMW
The most striking fact about VinFast is actually its partnership with BMW for the production of their first car.
It seems that Vo Quang Hue made a great impression on BMW executives as, after he revealed the VinFast plan to them, they agreed to sell licenses for building some of the cars with BMW technology.
I find this really curious as I don’t really remember BMW selling its tech to outsiders who are ready to produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year ever before. However, it wasn’t all that simple. VinFast engineers will have their hands full in order to meet more stringent regulations. After all, VinFast will not use the latest BMW technology, but the tech from outgoing BMW vehicles -the F10 (5 Series) and the F15 (X5).
As with any car manufacturer, VinFast had to create numerous facilities in order to be able to produce cars.
The company invested heavily in a new plant in the town of Hai Phong. Apparently, the plant itself will cost $1.5 billion.
That is not all, though. Earlier this year, VinFast took over a Chevrolet dealer network (they will import and sell Chevrolets in Vietnam) and a Daewoo-GM plant in the city of Hanoi. The company plans to adapt the plant for the production of its own vehicles too. Add to this a dedicated research center, and you have yourself a car company.
Who Is Behind The Company? Some Big Names From The Car Industry?
Well, President of Vingroup is the richest man in Vietnam (Pham Nhat Vuong with an estimated net worth of $6.8 billion), second in command of Vingroup but the first in command of VinFast is Vo Quang Hue (that guy who went to seal the deal with BMW). Apart from them, we have some known names from the industry as well.
- James DeLuca, Former Vice President of Manufacturing in GM, and now effectively working as CEO for VinFast. Actually, he said a few words about VinFast - "We have the resources, scalability, and commitment to become a significant new player in the global automotive industry."
- Designer David Lyon who helped in designing the first CTS, Escalade, Yukon, and Hummer H3, among others.
- Shaun Calvert, an engineer who made a career in GM finally becoming Director of Manufacturing Systems and Support before leaving for VinFast.
- Roy Flecknell, Global and Regional Automotive Product & Portfolio Planning and Program Management Leader who baked his skills working for GM for 22 years.
- Kevin Fisher, Head of Vehicle Engineering, formerly associated with Magna and Tata.
Obviously, this is a team with decades of automotive experience that is perfectly suited to lead an all-new car company.
VinFast Cars At The 2018 Paris Motor Show
The Vietnamese company prepared two new cars for their introduction at the 2018 Paris Motor Show.
Not only are they the cars that will launch the company, but they are, apparently, the first products from Vietnam to ever be exhibited at the Paris Motor Show.
Nevertheless, according to information from AutoCar in the U.K., VinFast cars - a sedan and an SUV - are actually based on top of the previous generation BMW 5 Series (F10) and BMW X5 (F15).
We do not know anything about the names as VinFast actually markets both of them only as a Sedan and an SUV. We will probably know more during and after the Paris Motor Show.
Interestingly enough, VinFast outsourced the design for the vehicles to several design houses from Italy.
I did find out that the company has collaborated, on some level, with Zagato, Ital Design, Pininfarina, Torino Design, and others.
All of the company’s proposed 20 design sketches in total. After that part of the work was done, VinFast reached out to Vietnamese people, 62,000 responded, and they picked the best among the 20 design sketches. They chose a Pininfarina design for both cars.
Obviously, the cars do follow the shapes set forth by BMW platforms. The Sedan is a classic three-box car with a long bonnet and long wheelbase, while the SUV actually reminds me a bit of the new Santa Fe. But it probably has a nicely tucked X5 F15 underneath.
David Lyon, Director of Design at VinFast, had a few words to say about the design of its new vehicles:
“The strong, distinguishable design, enhanced by elegant lines and refined details, gives our cars several distinctive highlights. First and foremost, these emanate around the V logo in the grille which references the country of Vietnam, as well as the Vingroup and VinFast brands.” He added, “in conjunction with Pininfarina, we have carefully sculptured each body line to express the natural beauty of Vietnam and the warm-hearted and dynamic characteristics of its people through a modern and world-class design language.”
Now, the contest was apparently won by ItalDesign studio, but VinFast continued cooperation with Pininfarina instead. Details about the whole process are rather sparse, so I’ll leave it at that.
As for the looks, I think that the cars don’t look shabby at all. Just fine. Even alluring.
Technical Development and Engineering weren’t done in-house. Instead, VinFast outreached to Magna International and signed the company on a process of development which actually was shrunken down to only 11 months.
Having tech from BMW definitely helped with cutting down the time needed for development, but the elimination of the clay modeling stage was the crucial step.
I can only imagine that the car is basically 3D modeled and then approved for further development and production.
Although VinFast did buy the licenses for the production of cars based on top of BMW platforms, it still has to develop appropriate features to make the car compliant with the market and regulations of today. After all, the F10 and the F15 aren’t exactly young.
Head of Vehicle Engineering, Kevin Fisher, reported that VinFast made some extensive modifications to the structure and then improved pedestrian and side-impact protection. With these changes, the cars, apparently, comply with the regulations all around the world and offer exceptional safety standards.
Of course, the engines powering the VinFast Sedan and the VinFast SUV are from BMW as well.
VinFast bought licences for production and installation of BMW's famed 2.0-liter, N20 engine.
Yet, BMW did not sell VinFast its Valvetronic head license. Engines in VinFast cars won’t have Valvetronic tech at all. VinFast probably developed its own solution and saved a bit of cash.
Nevertheless, the engines for VinFast’s cars will come in two states of tune. One will deliver 175 horsepower and the other 227 horsepower. This isn’t what you’d call enormous power output, but no one could have actually expected a 3.0-liter, TwinPower, Turbo inside. Maybe sometime in the future. The engine is linked with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Both cars, the Sedan and the SUV, will be available as RWD or AWD.
VinFast officials reported:
"VinFast products will share a number of characteristics and values: Vietnam, Style, Safety, Innovation, and Pioneering. Its cars will meet international standards and customer expectations in terms of premium design, quality, dynamics, in-car features, and ownership experience."
Development of the two new cars based on top of BMW platforms is only the tip of the iceberg.
VinFast actually has many other projects in the pipeline as well.
And one of the most promising ones is the development of a city car based on top of the Opel/Vauxhall Karl/Viva platform.
The company will build the car in restyled form, but still under license. The entry-level version will sport a 1.0-liter engine with the other one actually getting a 1.4-liter engine and the option for the automatic transmission. Interestingly enough, sketches for the car are already on the VinFast webpage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the people of Vietnam choose the design for this one too.
Apart from the small city car, VinFast will produce an electric vehicle as well.
Back in March 2018, German independent engineering service provider EDAG published an article disclosing their partnership with VinFast.
EDAG became the company responsible “for the complete development of the first electric vehicle for the Vietnamese market.” Of course, the car is basically being developed for VinFast (full name is VinFast Manufacturing and Trading Company Limited) to complement the new company’s lineup.
"We are proud that VinFast has chosen to appoint us as the overall engineering partner to work on their trendsetting electric vehicle project," stated Cosimo De Carlo, CEO of the EDAG Group. "Our all-round skills in vehicle and production plant devel-opment coupled with our expertise in the fields of eMobility, car IT and elec-trics/electronics inspired the confidence of our customer VinFast.”
Considering that Vietnam is a land of scooters and motorcycles, the development of the new VinFast e-Scooter is only expected.
While the company is clearly focused on building cars, the plant in Hai Phong will actually have a dedicated production line for electric scooters with a capacity to build up to 1 million e-Scooters per year. This is huge, as is the Vietnamese market for cheap affordable transportation. Scooters will basically be produced next to cars in VinFast facilities.
Apart from vehicles for commercial purposes, VinFast facilities will be able to produce numerous specialty vehicles including a bus that’s currently being developed in conjunction with German Siemens. Ambulances, police cars, taxis? I am sure VinFast will be able to do it all.
The birth of the first Vietnamese car company marks a major shift for the whole Southeast Asia market.
This is a region with a population of almost 650 million. As VinFast wants to be the leading car manufacturer there, it is safe to assume that it will try to sell its products throughout the region. It is not only by chance that by 2025 their facilities will be able to churn out up to 500,000 vehicles per year. Add to this 1 million scooters, and you have yourself a formidable car company with the capacity to meet the demand of a huge market.