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Vietnamese Automaker VinFast Breaks Ground On $4B EV Plant in North Carolina

Wed August 09, 2023 - Southeast Edition #17
Raleigh News & Observer

The groundbreaking ceremony, which took place July 28 at the site, marked a significant milestone toward VinFast’s global expansion and the company’s supply chain development in North America. (VinFast photo)
The groundbreaking ceremony, which took place July 28 at the site, marked a significant milestone toward VinFast’s global expansion and the company’s supply chain development in North America. (VinFast photo)

North Carolina officials and top VinFast executives met July 28 in Chatham County to officially start construction on the carmaker's first manufacturing facility outside its native Vietnam.

By 2028, VinFast has committed to employ 7,500 people at the site, about 30 mi. southwest of Raleigh. In terms of projected job creation, it is the largest state-backed economic project in Tar Heel State history.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported that VinFast, which produces fully electric SUVs, is poised to be the first car manufacturer to open a plant in North Carolina, completing a long-held ambition of state leaders.

"We've been working on this for decades, folks," Gov. Roy Cooper said. "[For] decades we've wanted an automaker in North Carolina, and you know, somebody was looking after us. We were just waiting for that EV market."

The state had previously vied to land Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo, Mercedes and a joint Toyota-Mazda plant, only to watch each opt for nearby Southeastern states.

The first construction phase, located in the rural community of Moncure, will include a vehicle manufacturing and assembly plant, which the company hopes to open in 2025 with an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year.

The plant, which has a Phase 1 total investment of up to $2 billion, spans an area of approximately 1,800 acres and is divided into five main production areas, including a body shop, general assembly, press shop, paint shop and an energy center. There will also be other functional facilities within the factory, according to VinFast.

In the initial phase, the factory will focus on building VinFast's VF 7, VF 8 and VF 9 electric vehicles. The supplier base for components and materials will be primarily concentrated in the United States, Vietnam and a few other countries, the manufacturer said.

VinFast added that future expansion and updates for the factory will be identified in the next phase of construction.

Currently, the manufacturer has appointed Clayco Corp., with headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., to be the general contractor and construction management company to lead the project.

In total, VinFast has pledged to invest $4 billion in the site.

Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S. Nguyen Quoc Dzung, and State Rep. Robert Reives, D-54th District, who represents Chatham County.

How VinFast Plans to Pay for Project

Earlier in July, the company submitted site plans to the county planning department that contained designs for nearly 3 million sq. ft. of space. Even as officials spoke at the event, construction crews could be seen working in the distance.

VinFast is a relatively new car company, having formed in 2017 as a subsidiary of the Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup. It is owned by Pham Nhat Vuong, the Southeast Asian country's wealthiest individual. Two years ago, the company pivoted toward only producing electric SUVs and began targeting foreign markets.

The News & Observer noted that the expansion has come at a hefty price.

In the past six years, the parent company has spent $9.3 billion to fund VinFast operations, according to public filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Since 2021, the year it began ramping up its global EV capacity, VinFast has lost a combined $4 billion.

Last summer, VinFast secured $4 billion in loans from Credit Suisse and Citigroup. In April 2023, the company announced $2.5 billion in additional funding from VinGroup and from Vuong personally.

When announcing the Chatham project in March 2022, the state and county combined to offer VinFast up to $1.25 billion in performance-based payroll tax cuts if the company met its future hiring and investment targets.

The North Carolina General Assembly also appropriated $450 million to improve nearby roads, prepare the site and enhance water and sewer infrastructure around the manufacturing facility.

VinFast also has applied for a $1.4 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees a program designed to promote the domestic production of fuel-efficient vehicles.

N.C. Governor Praised VinFast Driving Experience

For now, VinFast produces vehicles in Vietnam, but officials hope the North Carolina plant will support its future global ambitions.

"This will better position us to manufacture and distribute EVs in North America and fast-growing markets with greater speed and efficiency," Thuy said.

According to the company, VinFast has so far delivered 350 VF8s, its five-seat model, to U.S. customers since its first batch of vehicles was shipped in late 2022.

During the VinFast construction kickoff in late July, Gov. Cooper was bullish about the SUV's prospects, the News & Observer noted.

"(Thuy) drove me in a VF8, and it was a great ride," he told reporters. "Let me tell you, these cars are going to be great sellers in this country. We are excited about this partnership."

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