Automaker VinFast to invest $4B in Chatham County assembly plant, lands $1.25B incentive package

VinFast set to invest $4 billion

CHATHAM COUNTY – North Carolina has landed its first major automotive plant, as automaker VinFast will invest at least $4 billion in Chatham County to build the company’s first North American assembly plant.

An electric battery assembly operation will follow the initial phase, which the company said would enable it to produce as many as 200,000 electric SUVs each year, once operational, thanks to the work of some 7,500 workers expected to be hired at the facility.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced the project as a “historic and groundbreaking” one that will “strengthen our economy by bringing even more good-paying jobs to our state” at a press conference earlier today.

VinFast will invest at least $4 billion and employ at least 7,500 workers, said Governor Cooper.

“VinFast will bring North Carolina’s first automotive plant, second electric battery plant,” said Cooper, adding that thousands of direct and indirect jobs would also come to the state’s economy. “They chose to build their first North American factory right here in North Carolina.”

A phased approach

The first phase of the company’s investment will see an investment of up to $2 billion and occur at the Chatham County site Triangle Innovation Point, a statement from the office of Governor Roy Cooper noted.

Construction will begin in 2022 after a construction permit is granted. Production is expected to begin in June 2024 and could produce some 200,000 vehicles per year.

The project is expected to add more than $500 million in net state revenue, according to an analysis conducted by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

President Joe Biden issued a statement about the investment, as well, noting that the company’s $4 billion “electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility in North Carolina” will “create more than 7,000 jobs and millions of thousands of electric vehicles and batteries.”

In February, the Biden Administration announced $5 billion in available funding that could be allocated to enhance electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Reports: Electric car maker considers Chatham County site for plant, 13,000 jobs

Deal includes $1.25B in economic incentives

The investment and job figures are consistent with the presentation given by a North Carolina Department of Commerce official to the state’s Economic Investment Committee on Tuesday.

The state’s Economic Investment Committee, which met at a “specially called” meeting this afternoon, approved the incentives package unanimously. An official from the North Carolina Department of Commerce noted that Chatham County would also provide an incentives package worth about $400 million, in addition to the total incentives package approved by the state of North Carolina.

A statement from Governor Cooper’s office called the grant “transformative,” and notes that the project is estimated to increase the state’s economy by more than $71 billion across the 32 year grant period.

The state’s incentives package authorizes up to $316.1 million paid over the 32-year period. Additional support will come through state appropriations, up to $450 million, according to the statement. And the company’s agreement with the state will also move $36.6 million into the state’s Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account.

According to the official, a minimum of 6,000 jobs will be required in order for the company to receive any of the state incentives under an agreement known as a Job Development Investment Grant, or JDIG. Those jobs will pay an average annual wage of more than $51,000, according to the state official.

$5B now available for EV charging stations

Making EVs accessible

The company considered sites in 29 states, and the final decision came down to North Carolina and a site in Savannah, Georgia, according to the state official who presented the incentives package to the Economic Investment Committee on Tuesday.

“North Carolina’s strong commitments in building a clean energy economy, fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation make it an ideal location for VinFast to develop its premium, smart and environmentally friendly EVs,” said Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vingroup Vice Chair and VinFast Global CEO in a statement. “Having a production facility right in the market will help VinFast to proactively manage its supply chain, maintain stabilized prices and shorten product supply time, making VinFast’s EVs more accessible to customers, contributing to the realization of local environmental improvement goals.”

The VinFast deal comes a little more than three months after Toyota announced it would invest $1.29 billion in Randolph County to build the company’s first North American electric battery plant.

Toyota move ‘establishes NC as a hub’ for EVs, says economic development exec

EV revolution

Toyota’s decision may have contributed to VinFast’s site selection, as well, said site selection executive John Boyd, Jr., in an interview with WRAL TechWire this week.

“The electric vehicle revolution—driven by billions of dollars of new federal infrastructure spending and new initiatives by major auto makers—is also a driving force,” said Boyd. “As we see in the Triad Region with Toyota’s recent major battery plant announcement.”

There are other factors that would have been considered, as well, said Boyd, including the state’s new economic incentives program, on which there has been marked collaboration from public officials regardless of political party affiliation.

But state officials “should not use recent successes to go on auto-pilot and take economic development success for granted,” Boyd cautioned. “Economic development never sleeps,” he added. “The Triangle isn’t just competing with historic competitors like Nashville, Austin, DC, Atlanta, and Tampa, but also smaller emerging technology and life science markets like Boise, Reno, Glendale, Chattanooga, and Gainesville for the migrating worker and company. ”

Who is VinFast?

VinFast is a new player in the electric car world, and a new name charging into the US auto market. Its first models rolled out in Vietnam last year, but it’s part of a bigger conglomeration started by one of the world’s wealthiest people.

VinGroup’s founder got his start in instant noodles in 1993. He is now the richest man in Vietnam. VinFast has only been around for 5 years, but it’s hoping to go global with these electric SUVs.

The design philosophy of VinFast is fundamentally human, collaborative, and progressive.

Brian Wong, who contributes to Green Car Reports and The Car Connection as West Coast Editor for Internet Brands Automotive, says, “They showed up at the LA Auto Show with a fairly large booth and more presence than I think anyone was expecting.”

He’s only seen these prototype VinFast electric SUVs.

“What they have at this stage matches up with what any fledgling EV company would have and that’s pretty much a shell with nothing real in the middle,” he says.

VinFast is ramping up its focus on building an all electric brand. It built this massive manufacturing facility in Vietnam. Now, it’s entering the US with the announcement of the new production line in Chatham County.

“It’s a big investment to build a factory of that size and that scope,” says Wong. “That says they’re serious.”

VinFast has the backing of Hanoi-based VinGroup. The $35 billion conglomeration has companies that range from real estate, shopping malls, and resorts…to education, healthcare and artificial intelligence.

“Kind of think of them as Amazon only if Amazon was in a lot more businesses,” Wong explains.

VinGroup’s founder – Pham Nhat Vuong – is on Forbes’ list of wealthiest billionaires in the world.

Wong says VinFast looks like a promising brand in the electric vehicle market if it can take these SUVs from prototype to production.

“They’ve hit these checkpoints along the way that would indicate they’re a more serious player than you might think,” he says.

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