Gov. Roy Cooper joined VinFast executives and Chatham County leaders Friday morning to shovel the first dirt in Moncure, site of a planned $4 billion, 2.8-million-square-foot electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

The Vietnamese-based automaker expects to hire 7,500-plus people to work at the site, called Triangle Innovation Point.

“This facility is the crown jewel of VinFast’s global expansion,” said Brook Taylor, the company’s vice president of government relations and strategic partnerships.

Dan LaMontagne, Chatham County manager, added, “We think this will only be the first part of growth that comes to Chatham County.”

Friday’s event was not purely ceremonial. By mid-day, crews had begun pouring the first part of the factory foundation.

By 2025, the automaker expects to have VF-8 and VF-9 electric SUVs rolling off the assembly line and into American driveways. (The few existing VinFast owners in North America have had to order their cars online to have them shipped overseas.)

Thuy Le, VinFast Global CEO, said, “This will better position us to manufacture and distribute EVs in North America’s fast growing market with greater speed and efficiency.”

Le and Cooper joined hundreds of others, including Nguyen Quoc Dzung, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, and VinFast drivers like Natalie Ly at the event.

Ly likes her car so much she made the trip from southern California.

“It’s a very solid car,” she said. “I liked the design, the smooth ride, lots of good technology.”

Pedal to metal on plant in Chatham County

The groundbreaking essentially starts the engine on the plant’s development, and VinFast is putting the pedal to the metal.

It started with a goal of having cars ready for delivery in 2024, but leadership changes and time spent to secure the right permits pushed that date back.

“The speed at which this company is moving is extraordinary, and obviously when you move at that speed there can be some early bumps in the road so to speak,” Cooper said.

Chatham County leaders are banking on VinFast to get quickly up to speed.

I would not call it a delay,”  VinFast’s North American CEO Van Anh Nguyen said. “When we announced literally more than a year ago, when we signed the MOU [memorandum of understanding], we thought we could do everything within that timeline. It’s a very compressed and very aggressive timeline.

“We are confident because we’ve been there,” she said. “We’ve done that with our plant in Vietnam.”

In July 2022, WRAL News got a tour of VinFast’s headquarters in Vietnam. That factory took 21 months to build.

First look: VinFast unveils rendering, site plan for Chatham County auto plant

Jobs, job training are key to VinFast success in US

The company is planning to hire the majority of its 7,500 factory workers at the end of 2024 and early 2025, Nguyen said.

“It means a lot for families, because of the jobs that are coming and the opportunities for their kids to be employed right here. It means a lot for the economy,” said Karen Howard, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

Nguyen said the company is working with Central Carolina Community College in Sanford to prepare a training program.

“Even if they were trained at the schools – vocational schools or community colleges – we need people to be trained at our plant at least three months in advance, three to six months in advance, before we can put them into the production line,” Nguyen said.

She said VinFast has three objectives:

  1. Creating a quality and premium product
  2. Building cars that are affordable and have flexible prices
  3. Excellent customer service

Early reviews were negative

VinFast faces an uphill battle getting American customers to buy the electric SUVs the company plans to make here.

Motor Trend’s headline read: “Return to Sender.”

Another said: “The VinFast VF8 Is Simply Not Ready for America.”

VinFast cars ‘worryingly half-baked,’ says electrical engineer magazine review

WRAL News asked Nguyen about people who still wonder if the company will be a success.

“We are taking actions on that, and you know what, we are working hard to improve based on the feedback that we have received,” Nguyen said.