The latest model from Vinfast, the Vietnamese start-up that now owns Holden’s old Lang Lang proving grounds, has another General Motors connection.
The Vinfast President is a limited-run model based on the Lux V8 SUV previewed at last year’s Geneva motor show.
Like the Lux V8, it packs a 6.2-litre V8 engine that’s believed to be sourced from General Motors.
It produces 339kW of power and 624Nm of torque, identical numbers to the LT1 V8 used in the entry-level version of the outgoing Chevrolet C7 Corvette Stingray. In this heavier SUV application, it takes 6.8 seconds to do the 0-100km/h sprint.
The V8 powers a large SUV with a sumptuous interior that’s based on the previous generation of BMW X5, cloaked in a body penned by Pininfarina and garnished with gold/copper-look trim.
Just 500 units will be produced, each expected to carry an eye-watering price of around $225,000 – it appears Vinfast is trying to burnish its fledgling reputation, having only started producing vehicles last year.
Indeed, Vinfast has appeared almost out of the ether. Founded in 2017 and part of the Vingroup, the car brand made its motor show debut at the 2018 Paris show with the Lux SA2.0 and the Lux A.20 sedan.
Both models use BMW-sourced turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, mated to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission.
While the Lux SA2.0 is based on the last-gen BMW X5 and produces 170kW of power and 350Nm of torque, the Lux A.20 is based on the previous generation of 5 Series and produces 129kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
Vinfast is an ambitious company that’s part of the Vingroup conglomerate run by Pham Nhat Vuong, the richest man in Vietnam and the country’s first billionaire. He parlayed early success selling instant noodles into amassing a real estate empire.
Vinfast is currently recruiting staff for its new Los Angeles office as it seeks to enter the notoriously tough American market, quite an ask considering not even the Chinese have entered there yet.
It helps that Vinfast has expertly secured talent and resources. In addition to sourcing transmissions from ZF, mechanicals from GM and BMW, and styling from Pininfarina, it contracted Magna Steyr to ensure its vehicles were production-ready.
Earlier this year, it opened a research and development centre in Melbourne and then purchased Lang Lang, while it’s also established a manufacturing joint-venture with LG Chem to produce lithium-ion batteries.
In a statement to Reuters back in May, Vinfast said it’ll target the US market with its as-yet unseen electric vehicle, “We expect to officially debut the model at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2020; launch a test programme in January 2021 and mass produce the cars by July 2021”.
The General Motors connections run strong with Vinfast. Its CEO, Jim DeLuca, is a 37-year veteran of General Motors who most recently served as executive vice president of global manufacturing.
GM also transferred its Vietnamese operations including its factory to Vinfast, which currently handles local distribution of imported Chevrolet models.
Though most of its range uses BMW underpinnings, the cheapest Vinfast is based on a GM vehicle.
The entry-level Fadil, introduced last year, is a restyled version of the now defunct Opel Karl city car.
According to VN Express, Vinfast surged to fifth place in domestic sales in the first quarter of this year. That put it behind only Hyundai, Toyota, Kia and Honda, respectively. The Fadil accounted for 62 per cent of Vinfast’s sales.