The Society of Automotive Engineers-Australasia expressed regret over the looming demise of the local car manufacturing industry and the resources that could lay waste if not acted promptly and decisively by the government. When the last of the Holdens rolled off the factories a few years ago, it should have served as advanced notice.
Yet, with sale brochures of the Lang Lang proving grounds circulating recently, it has become apparent that there are indeed no government initiatives to revive the industry or preserve its assets.
Fortunately, a Vietnamese start-up called VinFast saw it as an opportunity. This neophyte automaker envisions to become a global car brand, launching its first two models at the 2018 Motor Show in Paris, with no less than soccer superstar David Beckham endorsing the two-model range. Both cars, a sedan, and an SUV are BMW-based and Pininfarina-designed.
Vinfast Sets Up Engineering Hub in Melbourne
The company established VinFast Engineering Australia late in December 2019, setting up a temporary office in the Port of Melbourne. It has signed up engineers, managers, and skilled workforce formerly employed by Holden, Ford, and Toyota. Soon to operate from a permanent facility in Port Melbourne, VinFast plans not only to employ the industry’s skilled resource and expertise but also tap into its developed market and pool of suppliers.
Talks are rife that VinFast is also interested in GM’s design and engineering facilities and Holden’s 877-hectare Lang Lang test centre. With its sights set on launching the VinFast EV in the US in 2021 and the rest of the world eventually, it does look like there's a glimmer of hope for Australia’s automotive resources.
Former GM Holden Managers & Engineers Among Senior Hires
GM’s former Executive VP of Global Manufacturing Operations, Jim DeLuca, is currently VinFast’s CEO. In an interview, he revealed that the engineering hub in Australia would serve as the product development centre for the car brand’s future models.
Some of VinFast’s senior hires include Global VP for manufacturing and engineering Shaun Calvert, Holden/GM veteran Kevin Yardley and Holden chassis & powertrain specialist Joe Sawyer.
More About VinFast
VinFast is part of the Vingroup corporation, which is owned by Pham Nhat Vuong. Aside from its interests in the auto industry (through VinFast), Vingroup is also invested in real estate, health, and education.
The Vietnamese automaker's initial models LUX A2.0 (executive sedan) and LUX SA2.0 (midsize crossover) were built on the architecture of F10 BMW 5 Series and F15 BMW X5, respectively. Both debuted at the 2018 Motor Show in Paris.
In 2019, VinFast partnered with Magna Steyr and launched a more powerful version of the SA2.0, the limited-edition LUX V8, at the Geneva Motor Show.
Its fourth model, Fadil, is an Opel-based city car, which came out in the same year. Aside from cars, VinFast is also a producer of electric motorbikes, which it produces in its 828-acre production facility in Hai Phong, Vietnam.
The VinFast name is an abbreviation that stands for Vietnam Style Safety Creativeness Pioneer (in Vietnamese, of course). VinFast sponsored what would have been the first Vietnamese Grand Prix (officially called 2020 VinFast Vietnam Grand Prix), slated last April 5, 2020.
Another Lease on Life for the Local Auto Industry?
While this newcomer is virtually unknown in the global automotive industry, its arrival gives the local automotive industry a new lease on life. Given Australia’s expertise and experience and VinFast’s ambitious international goals, the industry may see yet another day.
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