EV shoppers in San Diego now have a new showroom to browse. VinFast, a Vietnamese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer specializing in SUVs, cut the ribbon at Westfield UTC on July 14. The La Jolla showroom was one of six the company opened the same day in markets up and down California.
In addition to the UTC location, VinFast opened showrooms in Corte Madera, Berkeley, Commerce, San Mateo and Santa Monica – the site of the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for all six locations where company executives laid out VinFast’s goals. (The Santa Monica event was livestreamed to the other five locations.)
“Over the following months, VinFast will be expanding to more than 30 stores across California,” said Craig Westbrook, VinFast USA chief customer officer. “This is our entry into the U.S. market.”
In addition to plans for expanding into other states in 2023, VinFast also intends to open a vehicle production facility in North Carolina in 2024 – and locations in Europe and Canada “are well under way,” Westbrook added.
VinFast Global CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy did not attend the ceremony but in a statement before the event, she said “the six VinFast Stores in the U.S. marks an important milestone in the company’s global journey, as we move toward bringing premium products and services to American consumers.”
“I believe that introducing VinFast and interacting with customers one-on-one in our corporate-owned and operated stores is the best way to build relationships with customers and to ensure quality service,” the CEO added. “We are proud to drive the global EV revolution towards a sustainable future. This future officially takes its next step today in California and will soon expand across the U.S. and globally.”
EV Auto Mall
VinFast’s Westfield UTC opening marks the La Jolla mall’s fourth EV company to lease retail space onsite. The company joins Tesla Motors, Lucid Motors and ElectraMeccanica at the popular mall.
“Westfield UTC is a retail lifestyle destination that prides itself on being the premier choice for first to market brands and the opening of VinFast is no exception,” said Ryan Perry, senior general manager at Westfield UTC. “Our highest priority remains centered around offering guests a curated, robust list of retailers to choose from. Our versatile portfolio is intended to not only cater to each resident of San Diego, but also serves as the gateway for new experiences and retail trendsetting.”
Using high-traffic, high-profile shopping malls, rather than traditional auto sales lots with cars at the ready for test drives and a robust service center, is a trend started by Tesla – and a new model adopted by many other EV companies since.
The smaller footprint showrooms allow potential customers to meet with salespeople to learn about vehicles to make custom choices and if they decide to purchase, the car is ordered to their specifications and then delivered at a later date.
The smaller footprint also makes sense because EVs are non-combustive and have less mechanical issues, so manufacturers rely less on service centers.
As EV adoption by consumers heats up, the showroom trend has created a boon for retail centers around the world, especially in large cities like Shanghai where spaces can lease for as much as $1 million a month.
“There’s an overlap between the target consumer groups of electric vehicles and premium commercial developers,” Vivian Zhu, director of retail at JLL Shanghai, told Bloomberg News. “Those middle-class visitors who tend to shop for cosmetics or luxuries on the ground floor are also regarded as potential buyers for a Tesla or Nio.”
For Westfield UTC, EV showrooms are an opportunity to offer its visitors something unique.
“The showroom model speaks directly to this guest experience by recreating the way we approach car buying, ultimately allowing Westfield UTC yet again the opportunity for us to create an approachable, community-driven destination,” Perry said.
Telsa has the most destinations in malls in San Diego with UTC and an additional showroom location at Fashion Valley mall, as well as a service center and sales room in Carlsbad. And although a specific location has yet to be determined, Volvo’s EV brand Polestar is jumping into the San Diego market with plans to open a showroom later this year.
CEO: Le Thi Thu Thuy
Headquarters: Hai Phong City, Vietnam (Parent organization Vingroup: Singapore)
Business: Auto manufacturer
Revenue: In 2021 Vingroup posted a $1 billion pre-tax loss due to poor sales of its gas vehicles and investments in its EV line.
Notable: VinFast was founded by Vietnam’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong.