News - VinFast
Holden’s old proving ground abandoned again
COVID travel restrictions put Lang Lang proving ground in VinFast’s too-hard basket
25 Aug 2021
By MATT BROGAN
VIETNAMESE car-maker VinFast is set to depart Australia just 10 months after purchasing Holden’s proving ground facility in Lang Lang, Victoria.
General Motors sold the 877-hectare facility last September for $36.3 million, the property again on the market following reports VinFast is scaling back its Australian engineering operations, having already closed its Port Melbourne facility this May.
It’s unclear why VinFast made the decision to abandon its Australian base, but Australia’s COVID-19 related travel restrictions are likely to have played a part in the decision.
In an emailed statement, a VinFast spokesperson told GoAuto that “due to unexpected situations brought about by COVID-19, we have to relocate our operation back to Vietnam to ensure product development progress”.
Vietnamese engineers have been unable to travel freely to and from Australia since pandemic restrictions were introduced, a factor that’s expected to make it equally difficult to find a new buyer for the iconic test site.
However, the company says it is not completely turning its back on the Australian market.
“In the long-term future, VinFast still considers Australia as one of its strategic markets,” the spokesperson told GoAuto.
With VinFast clearly focussed on its domestic operations, the Lang Lang proving ground will be maintained by a skeleton staff until such time as a new buyer is found.
VinFast is owned by Vietnam’s richest man and first billionaire, Pham Nhat Vuong. The company was formed in 2017 and had hoped to tap into the engineering expertise of former Ford, Holden, and Toyota staff by forming an operation base in Melbourne.
In recent days, VinFast has also announced a deal with Volkswagen battery manufacturer Gotion High-Tech who will supply LFP (lithium iron phosphate) cells for its upcoming electric vehicle range.
A corresponding letter of intent indicates the company could establish its own Gigafactory-style facility in Vietnam, significantly lowering the production costs of its electric vehicles.
“The collaboration with such a prestigious battery manufacturer…is among VinFast’s essential action plans for developing its smart electric cars and complete supply chains,” said Vingroup Vice Chairman, Thai Thanh Hai.
“Our ultimate objective it to establish a clean energy ecosystem, contributing to cutting carbon emissions in Vietnam as well as in VinFast’s global markets.”
The former Holden proving grounds were established in 1957 and used to test every locally developed Holden since the FC-series in 1958. It is situated approximately halfway between Melbourne and Phillip Island.
The facility includes 44km of sealed and unsealed test roads, four-wheel drive facilities, a 4.7km high-speed bowl, and several purpose-built engineering and research buildings.
VinFast gave the first details of its upcoming vehicle range in January 2021. The C, D, and E-segment vehicles are expected to be badged as the VF e34, VF e35, and VF e36 – an ironic designation referencing the last Commodore series tested at Holden’s Lang Lang facility (VF and VF II).
VinFast will debut its smart EV range globally in 2022.
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