VinFast may have only been founded around three years ago, but Vietnam’s first carmaker is making big strides in the automotive industry. A subsidiary of Vingroup and the brainchild of billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, the company initially started out selling cars with BMW-licensed engines to domestic customers, but has since looked to electric vehicles for its future.

Earlier this year, the company revealed the VF31, VF32 and VF33 electric SUVs, all fitted with hardware that allows for up to Level 4 autonomous driving. According to VinFast, the order books for the VF31 are expected to open in Vietnam from May this year, with deliveries starting later in November. As for the VF32 and VF33, bookings will start from September 2021, with handovers slated to begin from February 2022.

However, domestic sales are just part of VinFast’s ambitions, as the company previously said it is looking to overseas markets to promote growth, including the United States, Australia, Russia, Canada and Europe.

Of those countries, VinFast CEO Thai Thanh Hai stated that the company is placing heavy emphasis on the US. “VinFast’s vision is to become a global smart electric car company and the US market is one of the first international markets that we will focus on. We initially will develop high-end models for the US,” she said, as reported by Bloomberg.

As a start, Vuong has invested as much as USD2 billion of his own fortune to lay the groundwork, although it isn’t known how much more investment will be coming in, as the company is also planning to establish a production plant in the country. Of the three EV models mentioned, only the VF32 and VF33 will be sold in the US (as well as Canada and Europe), with order taking set to start in November this year and deliveries from June 2022.

There’s certainly a lot to do before then, including setting up dealership network, with VinFast targeting to have 35 showrooms and service centres within California by this year. Ensuring consumers in the US are aware that relatively new brand is capable of providing top-quality vehicles with high safety standards and advanced technology, is another important aspect.

On the mention of technology, there’s also the matter of ensuring the company’s autonomous driving technologies satisfy regulators in the country. Towards the end of January, California regulators granted VinFast a permit to begin testing autonomous vehicles on public streets, so development work has already begun.

Autonomous vehicle technology is under the purview of the VinFast R&D Institute, according to Bui Hai Hung, head of VinAI Research, who oversees the company’s global research. VinAI and the research institute, the latter with offices in San Francisco, Australia and Vietnam, are responsible for developing self-driving features for VinFast EVs sold for the US.

While VinFast’s moves are certainly bold, the company only expects to be profitable after five years of operation, although the global pandemic has “made things more difficult,” Hai said. In terms of sales, the company sold about 30,000 vehicles domestically last year, and is forecasting more than 45,000 units in 2021.

Data from the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed that 296,634 cars were sold in the country last year, with Hyundai being the leading brand with sales of 81,368 cars. It’ll take some time for VinFast to climb to the top, but with EVs and other electrified models on the way (buses and scooters), things do look promising.