MONCURE — VinFast’s plan, from the start, was ambitious: to roll out electric vehicles from a sparkling new plant at Chatham County’s Triangle Innovation Point beginning in July of 2024.
The Vietnamese carmaker now says those plans are delayed, attributing the change in schedule to the need for “more time to complete administrative procedures” at its 1,756-acre site. The announcement, which came Friday, marked the first major delay for the assembly plant and coincides with VinFast’s preparations for an initial public offering to help fund it — as well as some unfavorable winds in the economy and stock market and pressures on EV manufacturers to lower prices.
Michael Smith, the president of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, told the News + Record Friday afternoon he’d informed his board and key county officials that VinFast will hold off on the start of vehicle production at the North Carolina facility until 2025.
“This is the result of administrative delays that have forced the company to revise the schedule for the start of full-scale vehicle production,” Smith said. “They remain fully committed to the successful development of their first U.S. production facility in North Carolina and are working to complete development of the site and construction of the facility as quickly as possible.”
Smith said that in a call with VinFast officials, he was assured there were no changes in the scope or vision for the project, which, when announced last spring, was the largest in North Carolina history. Plans for the $4.5 billion carmaker’s plant, along with its 7,500 jobs, are still on, Smith said, but a number of factors have interfered with movement forward.
A VinFast spokesperson told the News + Record on Monday the company is still fully committed to the project.
“We have the necessary approvals to finalize site development and plan to start construction soon,” the spokesperson said. “While the timeline has adjusted, our vision for the project remains clear. We are eager to move forward with construction and further contribute to this community by providing high quality jobs and economic benefit to the entire state.”
When the project was announced nearly a year ago, VinFast’s original goal was to have cars rolling off an assembly line by July 2024, with target production of 250,000 premium SUVs per year. That would begin with an initial production output of 150,000 EVs annually at the plant, which will also produce electric batteries.
“As we have seen in many businesses, supply chain issues have slowed the progress of their project,” Smith told EDC board members and others in an email Friday afternoon. “They are continuing to work with the many allies and partners here on this transformational project. We have our next team call with them (Tuesday), and we expect to continue on this journey to bring these jobs and investment to our community.”
After Tuesday’s regular call — which he described as “excellent” — Smith said VinFast is “full speed ahead.” The project remains “in a very positive light,” with no other changes other than a delay in EV production.
“There’s no change in scope or vision on the project,” he said. “It’s business as usual there. They are carrying on.”
Supply chain disruptions have compressed VinFast’s timeline, Smith said.
“They’re still going forward, it’s just not going to be July of 2024, which is what we initially had been told,” he said. “And so they’re still going forward, it’s just not going to be July of 2024, which is what we initially had been told and talked about.”
Smith said from everything he’s seen, VinFast still “feels good about Chatham County, they feel great about North Carolina.”
He, his staff, county and state officials and others involved in the project have been meeting regularly he said, often with as many as 25 or 30 people taking part in regular conferences.
“I just think they wanted to go ahead and just make the public and make the market aware that they are not going to be hitting the July 24th timeline as they initially had talked about,” Smith said. “But they are still excited about where they are and where we’re headed.”
VinFast’s U.S. headquarters are in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, the company delivered its first VF 8 City Edition SUVs to customers in California, according to the Triangle Business Journal, marking its official entry into the North American market.
The VF 8 — a five-seat SUV costing around $59,000 — is one of two cars planned for the Moncure plant. The price of its seven-seat VF 9 has been projected to start at around $83,000.
VinFast, founded in 2017 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, is a global producer of premium automobiles. Headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam, it has a state-of-the-art vehicle production facility in Hai Phong, Vietnam, that has the capacity to produce 950,000 vehicles per year by 2026.
VinFast’s rapid growth has seen it establish global operations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France and the Netherlands. VinFast currently provides an ecosystem of EV products in its home country of Vietnam, including e-scooters, electric buses and electric cars, charging station system and green energy solutions.
When announced, VinFast was the largest economic development project in North Carolina history. Wolfspeed’s announcement in September to build a microprocessor plant at Siler City’s Chatham Advanced Manufacturing site eclipsed the VinFast project in terms of total investment, at $5 billion. Wolfspeed plans to employ 1,800 at its facility.
VinFast has begun clearing its site in preparation for its plant, Smith said, but is still awaiting some permits, including environmental, before actual construction begins.