Preparing for the debut as Vietnam's first major domestic automaker, Vinfast CEO James DeLuca is a 37-year veteran of the international automotive industry, having previously served as executive vice president of global manufacturing operations at General Motors.
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Responding to a series of questions posed by Aftermarket Business World, DeLuca recently explained some of the details behind the VinFast venture:
Q: What is the current status of your production facility?
A: The factory is real. The buildings and key infrastructure are complete. VinFast is in the process of installing state-of-the-art production equipment for press, body, paint, engine and general assembly – including over 2,000 robots. We have partnered with some of the world’s best equipment providers – suppliers like GROB-WERKE, Eisenmann, Schuler, Dũrr, ABB, FFT and EBZ. VinFast has an experienced, international manufacturing management team recruited from around the world working with these leading automotive suppliers to ensure that the production complex will be one of the most advanced vehicle factories in the world.
In addition to state-of-the-art manufacturing and quality control processes, the plant has been set up to launch Industry 4.0 technologies. Pilot production of the first two cars is planned for March 2019, with full series production of customer cars due to begin in August 2019.
Q: What will your dealership and service network initially entail?
A: VinFast is the newest subsidiary member company of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private enterprise. Among a diverse portfolio of businesses, Vingroup operates a network of premium shopping malls and plazas across the country – currently 55 sites with more opening through 2019. These high footfall locations are ideal to make up a major part of VinFast’s retail network.
New 3S dealerships for sales, service and spare parts will also be opened as part of Vietnam’s largest car retail network. We will share the detailed plan at the appropriate time.
Q: Do you have American companies as suppliers? What parts, manufacturing equipment or repair shop fixtures are they providing?
A: Yes, Vinfast has many global suppliers, some of which have facilities in America and some that are American-based. The components provided are predominantly chassis- and powertrain-related with some interior commodities as well. We generally do not disclose names of our suppliers, but rest assured we have partnered with some of the best global suppliers in the auto business and are proud to be doing business with them.
Q: If a U.S. supplier wishes to become a vendor, what steps can they take to apply and make it happen?
A: Interested suppliers can contact our purchasing department at email@example.com get support and further information.
Q: Do most of the VinFast executives speak English? Or is French more common?
A: There are several VinFast senior executives recruited from global car brands, including General Motors, who are American and English. VinFast staff come from about 20 nations, with English the main language used for work here.
Q: What are your observations regarding the presence of parts stores and repair shops in Vietnam? Do most Vietnamese repair their own vehicles or do they take them to professional repairers?
A: Here in Vietnam, the majority of Vietnamese people rely on professional repairers. Each auto manufacturer or importer has developed their own service network and then expanded it to meet growing in demand in recent years.
For example, Toyota has an exclusive Toyota sales and aftersales network, while Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, etc. each have their own networks. Alongside the authorized dealer network, local distributors have developed a mixed network, combining manufacturer and independent authorized repairers.
Q: How did you personally get involved with working at a Vietnamese automaker and settling in the country?
A: I’ve spent almost 40 years in the automotive industry and I don’t think there has ever been a project quite as exciting as this. VinFast is not just a car company – it is driving the rapid expansion of the domestic Vietnamese automotive industry. The goal of VinFast is not only to succeed as a car company, but help create a better life for the Vietnamese people. So, I couldn’t turn down the offer to be involved. In my prior career, I spent six years living and working in Asia, so the move to Vietnam was a simple one for me.
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