By Ben Klayman
DETROIT (Reuters) - Vietnamese electric vehicle startup Vinfast could eventually enter the electric pickup truck market, a top U.S. executive said on Thursday.
Vinfast, a unit of Vietnam's Vingroup conglomerate, is focused on launching sales of its electric SUVs in the U.S. market later this year, but its vehicle platform allows for expansion into other types of vehicles, Craig Westbrook, chief service officer for Vinfast U.S., said at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit.
"We want to serve the needs of the market," he said in response to whether Vinfast would ever look to sell an electric pickup. "If we decide that's what the market needs and that fits our brand especially, and I think it absolutely could, yeah. It's something we should consider."
Ford Motor Co, Rivian and General Motors Co currently sell electric pickup trucks, and Tesla plans to begin production of its Cybertruck pickup in mid-2023.
Vinfast began building EVs in Vietnam at the end of last year and is targeting a shift to all-electric production by 2023.
The company's plans to begin vehicle production at a plant in North Carolina remain on track for July 2024, Westbrook said. Vinfast plans to open the U.S. plant with an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles, building the VF8 and VF9 SUVs.
Vinfast has almost 8,000 reservation for its SUVs in the United States, and between 40,000 and 50,000 globally, including Vietnam, Europe and Canada, he said.
The VF8 and VF9 vehicles will have starting prices of $40,700 and $55,500, respectively, but that excludes the cost to lease the electric battery, Westbrook said. A final price on the battery lease has not been set, but will start "in the low $100s" a month, he said.
Starting in 2024, Vinfast will also offer the option of buying the battery with the vehicle, Westbrook said. The company expects consumers will split evenly between leasing and buying.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by David Evans)