At the New York auto show, VinFast announced more details about its VF8 and VF9 battery-electric SUVs. Frankly, the press release was more confusing than informative, so your intrepid reporters/internet sleuths here at the CleanTechnica Giga Newsroom went to work to get the straight skinny for our readers. You’re welcome!
VinFast Battery Subscription Model
The big difference between VinFast and every other EV manufacturer doing business in North America is that — at least for the first year or so — the price of every VinFast car will not include the cost of the battery. Instead, the owners will pay a monthly subscription fee.
In its press release, the company says that by separating the price of the battery from the price of its cars, it can keep the price of its products lower than the competition while assuming all risks related to the battery. It expects this plan will allow owners to have peace of mind when it comes to battery life. VinFast also will provide a lifetime battery warranty covering all maintenance and repair costs, and will replace the battery for free if charging capacity falls below 70%. The battery subscription policy is considered a key solution for customers to make a transition to electric vehicles easier, allowing VinFast to become “the car for everyone.”
Two subscription plans will be offered. The first, called the Flexible plan, costs $35 a month for the 5-passenger VF 8 and $44 a month for the 7-passenger VF 9. For that price, the owners gets 310 miles of driving per month. After the monthly allotment, drivers pay an extra charge of $0.11 per mile for the VF 8 and $0.15 for the VF 9. If the vehicle is sold, the subscription policy is transferred to the new owner.
The second is called the Fixed subscription. It has no mileage caps and it will cost $110 a month for the VF 8 and $160 a month for the VF 9. Green Car Reports explains things this way: If you own a VF 8, you would need to drive 681 miles per month on the Flexible plan to equal the cost of the Fixed plan. With the VF 9 you could drive 773 miles in a month on the Flexible plan before your cost equals the price of the Fixed plan.
“If you plan on using the vehicle daily or to commute, that makes the larger plan a no-brainer,” GCR says, “but if not the math is fuzzier. This makes the subscription plan feel like old school cell phone plans where you’d have to try to figure out how many texts you could send and how much phone time you used each month. Those plans faded out eventually in favor of more consumer friendly unlimited plans, and our guess is that something like that will happen here as well.”
As an added bonus, the company guarantees it will not increase the monthly cost of the Flexible plan for the life of the vehicle for customers who place a reservation for a model year 2022 car. But as GCR points out, that implies the company could “adjust” the subscription rate of the Fixed option from time to time.
The subscription model is intended to attract buyers to the new company and relieve any concerns about the longevity of the batteries, but it isn’t going to be a regular part of the VinFast sales model going forward. The company says beginning with 2024 models, it will adjust the programs so ownership of the battery is split 50/50 between the car owner. The company but offered no details about what that even means. It seems like a flaw in the company’s thinking, as it creates a question in the mind of buyers. As any experienced salesperson will tell you, people who have questions seldom commit to buying a product until those questions are answered.
VinFast Prices & Specs
The VF8 5-passenger model will be available with two battery sizes — 82.7 kWh and 87.0 kWh. Why there is such a small gap between the two is simply a mystery. The difference in price is only $300, so why would anyone opt for a smaller battery to save a paltry 300 bucks? The question is academic, as only the smaller battery will be offered initially, with the larger battery arriving sometime next year.
The VF8 comes in two trim levels — Eco and Plus. Those trim levels have nothing to do with the battery size but rather to interior appointments, with the Eco being the downmarket choice with synthetic leather and a less powerful sound system. Both have dual motors and the same 15.6-inch infotainment screen and heads-up display.
The VF8 Eco price is $40,700 with the smaller battery, and $41,000 with the larger battery. The VF8 Plus lists for $47,700 with the smaller battery, and $48,000 with the larger battery. No EPA ratings are available yet, but the company estimates the range of the Eco will be 260 miles with the smaller battery and 292 miles with the larger battery. For the VF8 Plus, those numbers are 248 and 277 miles, respectively.
The VF9 7-passenger vehicle has a similar pricing structure. The Eco version starts at $55,500 (add $500 for the larger battery) while the VF9 Plus lists for $61,500 (add $500 for the larger battery). But here’s where things get really strange. The company estimates the VF9 Eco will have 272 miles of range with the smaller battery but 369 miles of range with the larger. For the VF 9 Plus, those figures drop slightly to 262 miles and 360 miles.
Wait. What? Owners can pick up 100 miles of range for only $500 extra? Something doesn’t compute here, but clearly the larger battery for the VF9 is going to be a lot bigger than the larger battery for the VF8. We just don’t know how much larger battery and if that minor price difference will still apply when the larger battery becomes available. We do have several readers who enjoy calculating this stuff and we expect they will pinpoint exactly how large that optional battery will have to be in order to support those higher range estimates.
In Other News
Clearly, VinFast has put a lot of thought into its sales strategy for North America. However, one gets the impression that it is maybe being too clever by half. With so many options to choose from, some prospective buyers are going to choose “none of the above” and shop elsewhere. The company will need to do a better job of educating consumers about the battery subscription model. New ideas take time to gain acceptance and VinFast won’t have a lot of time to get out of the gate once sales in America start later this year.
The company is very serious about its ambitions. It plans to construct a US factory to manufacture its cars and batteries for them in North Carolina. It also plans to offer its cars in Europe as well. We wish it well. Its cars are attractive, having been styled in Italy, but it is a company with no history outside of its home market and nearby countries.
Many others have thought they could crack the US market — Peugeot, Borgward, and others — and found it hard going. Mitsubishi sells well in Europe, but is an afterthought in the American market. Wishing and hoping won’t get it done. VinFast is facing a serious challenge. Is it up to the task?
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