By Ben Klayman
(Reuters) - Vietnamese automaker Vinfast will begin taking pre-orders in the U.S. market for its VF e35 and e36 electric SUVs in the first half of 2022 and expects to begin delivering them by the end of the year, global Chief Executive Michael Lohscheller said.
"It's still early to make any sales predictions, but VinFast will unveil two of our latest EV models, which are VF e35 and VF e36, at the 2021 Los Angeles auto show this November, thus marking our official introduction to the American market," he said in an email to Reuters.
The company expects to begin delivering its first EVs in Vietnam starting in December, said Lohscheller, a former Volkswagen and Opel executive who was named to his position at Vinfast in July.
The automobile arm of Vietnam's largest conglomerate, Vingroup, Vinfast has an office in California and expects to inaugurate 60 U.S. showrooms next year, he said.
Vinfast has grand ambitions to launch EV sales in the U.S. and European markets next year, taking on Tesla and other automakers. Funding that plan is Vingroup, which was founded as an instant noodle business in post-Soviet Ukraine and now has interests spanning real estate, resorts, schools, hospitals and smartphones.
Founded in 2017, Vinfast is aiming to compete on vehicle size and price. The carmaker's vehicles will also come with a battery leasing scheme that means the cost of the battery, one of the most expensive components of an EV, will not be included in the final price.
VinFast, with an assembly plant in Vietnam, is planning to conduct most of its U.S. sales online. Lohscheller said the company will "keep an eye on the possibility of a manufacturing facility in the U.S."
The company has targeted global EV sales next year of 15,000 vehicles, down from its prior goal of 56,000 due to the global semiconductor chip shortage.
To fund its growth, Vinfast has said it is eyeing a public listing in the United States.
"VinFast has a plan for an IPO in the U.S., but specific timing will depend on the market and other conditions," Lohscheller said. "We will reveal more information at an appropriate time in the future."
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)