HAI PHONG, Vietnam, Nov 25 (Reuters) – Vietnam’s electric car maker VinFast said on Friday it had shipped its first batch of 999 cars to the United States, capping a five-year bid to develop a car manufacturing center in the Southeast Asian country for markets in the North -America and Europe.
The first cars are expected to be handed over to customers by the end of December, the company said.
VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy said some of the VF 8 electric SUVs shipped on Friday will be sent to US car subscription service Autonomy, but the majority will go to retail buyers who have ordered the car.
Thuy said VinFast expected to be able to send another batch of cars to the United States, its first export market, around January.
VinFast is in the process of building an electric vehicle facility in North Carolina pending final regulatory approval from local officials.
Thuy said the company expected to start production at the North Carolina plant from July 2024, and that electric vehicles built there would qualify for incentives under the terms of the Inflation Reduction Act signed by US President Joe Biden.
The Inflation Reduction Act, as currently written, requires automakers to have 50% of critical minerals used in EV batteries come from North America or US allies by 2024, increasing to 80% by the end of 2026.
Major automakers have said those targets are unrealistic, and it was not immediately clear how VinFast would meet the procurement requirements.
“The IRA came as a surprise to all of us, but it doesn’t really affect our strategy in the United States,” Thuy told Reuters. “As soon as we start manufacturing cars in the United States, our customers will be eligible (for) the tax incentive.”
VinFast said last week that Autonomy had ordered 2,500 electric vehicles, its largest corporate order to date. VinFast has said it has nearly 65,000 orders globally in total and expects to sell 750,000 electric cars annually by 2026.
The North Carolina factory project is running months behind schedule, based on the company’s original goals, and the first shipment of EVs built by VinFast fell short of the original goal of delivering as many as 5,000 cars built at the Haiphong factory by December.
VinFast officials said the number 999 for the vehicles shipped in the first batch was chosen because it is considered a lucky number in Vietnam.
“There is no luckier number than 999,” Thuy said. The Panamanian-chartered carrier used to ship the first shipment of VinFast EVs had the capacity to carry up to 2,000 vehicles, officials said.
Shares in VinFast’s publicly traded parent Vingroup, which also has property and resort development businesses, were up 5.41% on Friday morning.
Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Written by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Ed Davies and Edmund Klamann
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