Everyone Seems Confused About Vinfast’s $2 Billion North Carolina Plant

Vietnam’s startup carmaker with some old BMW tech has had American plans for some time

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VinFast at the LA Auto Show in November, 2021
VinFast at the LA Auto Show in November, 2021
Photo: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Vietnam’s startup car company is making waves outside of Raleigh, and the locals are intrigued, to say the least. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 30, 2022.

1st Gear: Let’s Include Our Favorite Email On The Subject

We at Jalopnik get emails. We love our emails! Let us include one writing us to ask about VinFast, a car company we have been reporting on since 2018.

So I live in the Raleigh, NC area and have almost all my life. The state government is giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to a EV startup from Vietnam called Vinfast.

Who the hell is Vinfast? It barely looks like they have any actual autos on the market right now and the only details we have are what the company says in pressers. Motor Trend tried to contact them about their supposed foray into the US market this year and got silence. They claim they’re going to employ 13,000(!) to build 2 SUVs (surprise). Thats twice as many people than work at Ford River Rouge making a car people actually buy (F150). But the Governor is desperate to cut a ribbon so now some Vietnamese oligarch gets a half billion in incentives and free land (a site that they’ve shopped to Toyota, Daimler, Kia, and VW) to build…something. No one has enough knowledge of these things to say if they’ll even survive heat/cold extremes in this country.

Would love to see you guys give no fucks and look into what exactly this company is. I doubt they’re worth a Toyota-sized investment (not that corporate welfare isn’t a disease, because it is).

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I love the implication here that a car company from Vietnam wouldn’t have the wherewithal to develop a car for such a dramatically different climate as ... North Carolina.

In any case, VinFast is a car company started up by a Vietnamese billionaire who got his start selling instant noodles out of Kharkiv, Ukraine in the early 1990s! That’s a weirdly topical connection.

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Here is the main news on the new plant said to be coming to North Carolina, laid out by Automotive News:

According to a report from the News & Observer, VinFast plans to ultimately spend more than $4 billion to open an assembly plant in North Carolina that will create about 7,500 jobs by 2027. The initial investment will be $2 billion, according to a statement issued by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

The company eventually plans to build 200,000 or more vehicles a year at the North Carolina plant, which the newspaper said will be located on a 2,150-acre site in Moncure, a 30-minute drive south of Raleigh.

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AN points out that VinFast wouldn’t be the first EV-forward startup to set its eyes on the South, with Rivian establishing itself in Georgia.

2nd Gear: Genesis Gets Its First Standalone U.S. Store

I’ve always been interested in the Genesis story, a butterfly slowly making its way out of its chrysalis. When Japanese automakers pursued luxury sub-brands, they emerged fully-formed as Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti (but not Amati.) Genesis started out in Hyundai dealers with a Hyundai name. The name has been split for some time, now Genesis gets its first American standalone dealership with more on the way, as Automotive News reports:

“Genesis has earned a position as a stand-alone brand,” [Arthur LeBlanc Jr., dealer principal of the new store, Genesis of Lafayette] said. “As a luxury vehicle manufacturer, a stand-alone facility is not only needed but also expected from our consumers.”

Dealers now have five other standalone Genesis stores under construction around the country. They include one in Cherry Hill, N.J., owned by Peter Lanzavecchia, the head of Genesis’ retail advisory board, and another in Greer, S.C., not far from BMW’s big U.S. manufacturing complex.

The other three are in the greater Los Angeles area, in the Cerritos, Corona and Santa Monica markets.

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3rd Gear: Mercedes Cuts European Production Again Over Ukraine

The European auto industry was quick to rush eastward when the Iron Curtain fell, and for the most part it’s been a low-key transition. Russia invading Ukraine, though, has put a real wrench in the international but intra-continental auto industry there, per Automotive News:

Mercedes-Benz Group said its German plants are running even though the automaker has been forced to make some shift adjustments at its home plant in Sindelfingen plant due to supply chain disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sindelfingen, which builds the automaker’s flagship sedans, the S-Class and EQS, along with the E-Class is continuing to operate despite parts shortages, a Mercedes spokesperson told Automotive News Europe in an emailed statement.

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According to Mercedes, the situation is being monitored “on a daily basis,” which does not sound stressful at all.

4th Gear: Stellantis Wants Layoffs At Jeep’s Illinois Plant

And the UAW is not particularly keen about it! Stellantis wants cuts, the UAW says they aren’t reasonable, as the Detroit News reports:

The United Auto Workers local representing workers at a Jeep plant in Belvidere, Illinois, is warning that the job-cut goals it says Stellantis NV has communicated to it are “unobtainable.”

The transatlantic automaker on Monday notified employees that it is offering retirement packages to UAW-represented employees at the Cherokee crossover plant and also is laying off both hourly and salaried staff there. The goal is to operate Belvidere in a “more sustainable manner,” according to the company. It declined to disclose how many of the nearly 2,000 workers there would be affected.

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5th Gear: Uber’s New York Taxi Concession May Be Headed To SF

Uber is now showing proper, actual cabs in New York in addition to its regular cars, a concession that is hopefully not too little, too late for a city that did everything in its power to completely fuck over its cabbies.

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We saw a real sea change here in NYC last year thanks to collective bargaining from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and some of that rising tide may be lifting the boat of San Francisco. From the New York Times:

The company is close to completing an agreement with a San Francisco partner, Flywheel Technologies, to allow Uber passengers in the city to call a taxi through the Uber app, according to four people familiar with the matter and a video presentation by the city’s transportation agency that was viewed by The New York Times.

The next step is for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors to approve tweaks to a pilot program at its April 5 meeting. The city’s director of transportation would then need to authorize it, paving the way for Uber and Flywheel, which operates an app used by hundreds of taxi drivers in San Francisco across several taxi companies to accept rides.

The agreement, after a similar partnership between Uber and taxi companies in New York City was announced last week, would mark an abrupt departure from the years of fierce fighting between the two groups. If approved by regulators, the partnership in San Francisco could begin as soon as May.

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I’m glad this is happening, but it’s also important to see this as a step in the right direction, not the end of the road. This is still a public-private partnership of something that, honestly, is a social good and should be fully regulated.

Reverse: I’m Still A Little Bummed We Didn’t Keep Government Motors Around

As Jacobin pointed out in a lovely piece “Make GM Government Motors Again,” we used to own GM. We had the power, the financial pull, to weaponize our largest carmaker for good and not just for profit. As it happened, we got the Volt for a few years and a bunch of trucks.

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Neutral: How Are You?

I am starting to plan out my summer. Other than the New England Forest Rally and a couple Club Loose drift events, what should be on my list of car things to plan a trip around? Is this the year I finally make it to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix?