Remember the VinFast VF3 that debuted in June? Probably not, it was only intended to be a minicar for the company’s Vietnamese home market. Battery-electric and with deep Suzuki Jimny vibes, the VF3 measures 122.5 inches long, about 2.5 feet shorter than a Mini 2-Door Hardtop or Mazda Miata. For some sense of scale, those are 16-inch wheels on the VF3 above. VinFast didn’t give away details, but said the interior fits five and includes a small trunk, and that the single-motor powertrain could go “an impressive distance.” If VinFast’s eventual U.S. dealer body gets its way, we might get a chance to find out if those assertions are true. Automotive News reports the Vietnamese automaker is putting together a brick and mortar dealer network alongside its direct sales. After initial meetings with early dealership applicants, VinFast said it is “researching the demand and potential for the VF3 model in the U.S., following the positive responses from our dealers. … Further details will be announced in due course.”
What’s got the dealers hooked? A possible MSRP in the U.S. of $20,000 or less. An American adviser to VinFast said that in surveying roughly 100 dealers who attended one meeting, “They liked the whole lineup but the VF3, I would say, got an almost 100 percent response. … They really liked the VF3 and the reason is it’s probably sub-$20,000.”
And if VinFast gets locally sourced batteries to supply its coming North Carolina assembly plant, a U.S. VF3 might even qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. The last time you could get a new car for close to that money was the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage.
This reminds us of Mahindra. For those who don’t remember, about 15 years ago, when everything on Earth was much less expensive, 324 dealers in the U.S. signed up to sell a small pickup from Indian automaker Mahindra called “Pik Up” for the sole reason that it was a cheap pickup. That saga dragged on for five years before being put to rest by a British arbitration panel without one truck being sold. The similarity to VinFast is that dealers are sold in advance on the chance to move product from an automaker unproven in the U.S. so far and with an, at best, spotty tenure here, for the sole reason of affordability. VinFast’s effort has a much greater chance of success, considering that the company is already selling vehicles here. But we’re not even talking about a pickup anymore, we’re talking about an electric minicar that’s smaller than a Miata. Which is nutty.
While VinFast investigates the business case, the battery-electric VF6 is expected to be the entry-level model in the lineup. It hasn’t been priced for our market yet, but the SUV is expected to be powered by a 59.6-kWh battery and single electric motor good for a 248-mile range.