Construction paused at VinFast's NC site as carmaker seeks a smaller footprint

Brian Gordon, The News & Observer on

Published in Business News

Nearly nine months after VinFast broke ground on its planned $4 billion electric vehicle factory in North Carolina, construction at the Chatham County site has stalled while local officials await updated building plans from the Vietnamese carmaker.

Chatham County confirmed Tuesday what News & Observer drone footage makes clear: No significant vertical construction has occurred at the campus, which sits about 30 miles southwest of downtown Raleigh near the unincorporated town of Moncure.

The current holdup dates back to last July when Chatham approved a foundation permit for VinFast to build a 995,000-square-foot general assembly area. Later that month, VinFast welcomed local and state leaders, including Gov. Roy Cooper, to celebrate what the company promised would be its first factory outside of Vietnam — a facility capable of churning out 150,000 electric vehicles a year while employing 7,500 workers.

But on Dec. 8, VinFast revised its assembly plant designs. Instead of a 995,000-square-foot structure, it now asked Chatham for one that only covered 782,250 square feet. Where the original assembly area design made a U-shape, the new layout is more rectangular, said David Camp, Chatham’s director of permits and inspections, as a truck loading dock featured in the middle of the original design was cut out.

Camp said the smaller footprint doesn’t necessarily indicate VinFast will scale back its promised production or employment at the site, noting it “could mean that they’re being more efficient about the space inside.”

But he said it’s up to the company to make the next step. On Dec. 13, Chatham County posted comments on the revised design. Nine days later, the car company submitted additional vertical building plans that Camp said “did not address our comments.”

On Dec. 28, Chatham asked VinFast to submit a comprehensive plan for the assembly plant’s foundation and vertical design. VinFast has not yet done this.

“No construction is being done until this permit revision is issued,” county spokesperson Kara Lusk said in an email Tuesday.

VinFast’s approaching NC deadlines

The general assembly building is one of several structures the car company has said it hopes to erect at the Moncure site. Site plans submitted last summer included almost 3 million square feet spread across eight structures. The Chicago-based developer Clayco is leading the project.


Chatham County is currently reviewing designs for an 850,000-square-foot body shop, and VinFast has received permits for retaining walls, which Lusk said are under construction.

VinFast announced the site in March 2022 after North Carolina and Chatham offered combined incentives of $1.25 billion, including more than $300 million in payroll tax benefits if the company meets its hiring and investment targets. Under its state job development investment grant, VinFast pledged to create at least 1,997 jobs by the end of this year.

But the absence of building construction calls this aim into question as well as VinFast’s stated goal of producing electric vehicles in North Carolina by 2025. The company previously postponed the plant’s scheduled opening from 2024.

New to manufacturing electric vehicles, VinFast has lost billions over the past three years as it seeks to overcome poor initial reviews, wobbling electric vehicle demand and a hypercompetitive auto market. The automaker’s stock finished Thursday at an all-time low of around $3 a share.

This week, VinFast reported delivering 9,689 electric vehicles during the first three months of 2024, a 28% decrease over the previous quarter. About half of these sales were made to Green and Smart Mobility, a Vietnamese taxi service controlled by VinFast’s parent company.

VinFast declined to share whether it still believes production can begin in Chatham County next year, though a company spokesperson said VinFast would share more information about its North Carolina operations on a quarterly earnings call Wednesday.

On the call Wednesday morning, company officials did not mention the Chatham factory in their prepared remarks, but in answering an investor’s question about the site, chairwoman Le Thi Thu Thuy said “North Carolina is still ongoing.”

“We’re still on track to start the operation by the end of next year,” Thuy said. “Hiring a lot of workers and putting in operations by the end of next year. But probably the full operations, that will take a couple of months.”

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