At the New York auto show last week, Vinfast released updated pricing information for both of its forthcoming VF 8 and VF 9 electric SUVs and offered new details on its battery subscription program, which will be the first of its kind for the U.S. market.
The battery subscription program will be offered in lieu of a battery warranty, which is offered by every other EV automaker currently. It functions in a similar way, replacing the entire pack if the battery dips below a certain charging capacity threshold (70% in this case), and Vinfast is responsible for maintenance and battery repair costs along the way.
This does in theory pass the long-term cost of the pack to the company, as when you buy a Vinfast vehicle you’re required to lease the battery. How that affects retail and residual values, as well as insurance costs, remains to be seen.
Vinfast VF8 Prototype
There will be two different battery plans available, called Flexible and Fixed, designed for different customers with varied mileage needs. The Flexible plan costs $35/month for the two-row VF 8 and $44/month for the three-row VF 9 and covers 310 miles, with an overage charge per mile of $0.11 for the VF 8 and $0.15 for the VF 9. If the vehicle is sold, the subscription policy is transferred to the new owner.
For the Fixed subscription, there are no mileage caps and it will cost $110/month for the VF 8 and $160/month for the VF 9. That means if you own a VF 8, you would need to drive 681 miles per month to make on the Flexible plan to reach the cost of the Fixed plan. In the VF 9 that threshold is 773 miles. If you plan on using the vehicle daily or to commute, that makes the larger plan a no brainer but if not the math is fuzzier. This makes the subscription plan feel like old-school cell phone plans where you’d have to try to figure out how many texts you could send and how much phone time you used each month. Those plans faded out eventually in favor of more consumer friendly unlimited plans, and our guess is that something like that will happen here as well.
These subscription costs are significant over time, for the more expensive plans it adds well over $1,000 per year to ownership costs. Granted, the costs of the VF 8 and VF 9 relative to the competition are low, but this does eat into those savings throughout the life of the vehicle.
Vinfast says that this program is mandatory for VF 8 or VF 9 ownership, but it’s effectively a stopgap solution. Starting as soon as 2024, the company hopes to offer both the battery subscription plan as well as an option to buy the battery along with the vehicle in a more traditional ownership model. There is not yet any information on how that would change pricing for either vehicle, but Vinfast said that it expects the mix between those options to be 50/50 starting that year. We also asked if those who buy the battery will get the same replacement terms based on charging capacity threshold, but those details are also not yet available.
One other piece to note: Vinfast also indicated that if you make a vehicle reservation and deposit for either vehicle in 2022, the Fixed plan will be offered for the same rate over the life of the vehicle. That’s good, but it does also imply that for other buyers the price of the subscription is subject to change.
Vinfast VF8 Prototype
Vinfast VF8 Prototype
In addition to the subscription details, Vinfast also released more pricing details for both vehicles. The company is holding to its aggressive timeline of beginning deliveries of both the VF 8 and VF 9 by the end of the year, even though we have yet to see fully realized prototypes of the larger vehicle where the doors open.
Both vehicles will be offered in Eco and Plus versions, though the trim levels have nothing to do with the battery sizes as the name might suggest. The Eco models are less luxurious with synthetic leather and a less powerful sound system, but have the same 15.6-inch infotainment screen and head-up display according to the official spec sheets for the VF 8. It appears that both will feature standard dual-motor all-wheel drive and be offered with a pair of battery options, one with 82.7 kwh of usable capacity and an extended version with 87.0 kwh.
The VF 8 will start at $40,700 for the Eco version with the smaller battery, but upgrading to the larger battery only costs $300 giving that version a price of only $41,000. For the Plus it’s the same gap, with prices of $47,700 and $48,000. It’s unclear which battery will be available at launch, but that’s a small increase for the range gains. Vinfast estimates ranges of 260 and 292 miles for the Eco, and 248 and 277 miles for the Plus.
For the larger VF 9 we don’t have detailed battery capacity specifications, but going off of the estimated ranges, the gap seems to be even larger than the difference in capacity. Vinfast lists an estimated 272 miles of range for the VF 9 Eco with the smaller battery, but 369 miles of range with the larger. In the VF 9 Plus those figures drop slightly to 262 miles and 360 miles.
Pricing is once again very tight between the two battery versions. The VF 9 Eco with the smaller battery starts at $55,000 with the larger battery costing only $56,000. The VF 9 Plus costs $60,500 and $61,000 respectively. For the VF 9 however, we have more clarity on battery availability; only the models with the smaller battery will be initially available at launch this year, with the larger battery version to follow in 2023.
Vinfast VF8 Prototype
It’s hard to figure out why the two battery versions are priced so closely given the difference in range. It could be because the company assumes those buying the larger pack will drive more miles and go for the more expensive battery subscription, so it will recoup the difference in that way. Or that the larger packs will come from Vinfast’s battery factory, which will begin to ramp up production in September, and pushing consumers towards models with that pack is a better play for the company.
I had an opportunity to test drive a prototype of the VF 8 in Vietnam last week (more on that to come) and there’s still a long way for the company to go to get that vehicle ready for primetime. We also aren’t sure how consumers will react to a battery subscription program, given that none currently exists here. And there may be plenty of other general consumer-rights questions that likely need to be answered if Vinfast is going to hit its ambitious targets (including U.S. assembly) and put its vehicles on U.S. roads later this year.
UPDATED: Changes were made on 4/21 to reflect new information from Vinfast that full battery ownership and not a split ownership of the battery as we initially reported will be offered in 2024.