VinFast, the little-known Vietnamese start-up car company that bought the iconic Holden test track and hired dozens of its former employees, is about to close one of its Australian operations – barely a year after being established locally.
UPDATE, 7 May 2021: Since this article was published, VinFast has confirmed the closure of its Port Melbourne office and the resignation of the local boss, but says the former Holden proving ground remains unaffected. VinFast issued the following statement:
"Currently, VinFast is ... focusing on vehicle development projects that are participated by its foreign research facilities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hindered connections and movements across countries. Therefore, VinFast has decided to gather all vehicle development workforces in foreign countries back to the headquarters in Vietnam in order to optimise all resources and facilitate coordination with the production team in our complex in Hai Phong, Vietnam."
The statement continued: "For this reason, we have temporarily closed (the Port Melbourne) Australian office and moved all staff to Vietnam. It is true that Kevin Yardley has resigned. In terms of transferring workers in our Australian office to Vietnam, we will settle all issues according to the laws if anyone cannot manage to move to Vietnam."
VinFast said its decision to close the research and development office in Port Melbourne "does not affect the Lang Lang proving ground. We will release (an) official announcement if there is any change."
The remainder of the original story continues below.
Unsubstantiated reports from industry insiders claim VinFast is about to close its Port Melbourne design and engineering centre, which was staffed primarily by former Holden, Ford and Toyota workers who lost their jobs after the end of local car manufacturing.
The closure of the VinFast Port Melbourne design and engineering office would impact approximately 50 jobs, say industry insiders.
CarAdvice understands the jobs of approximately 60 engineers employed and based at the former Holden proving ground and test track – near Lang Lang in the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne – are safe for now.
VinFast is owned by one of Vietnam's richest men, and plans to make luxury cars based on previous BMW architectures, as well designing some of its own vehicles from the ground up.
The Australian division of VinFast had primarily been focussing on three new passenger cars dubbed VF e34, VF e35 and VF e36.
The VF e34 hatchback has been spotted testing and is due to go on sale in Vietnam soon. The other VinFast models are planned for the US, Canada and Europe. Some VinFast models could eventually be sold in Australia, however those plans are a long way from being confirmed and may not come to fruition.
CarAdvice has, via a third party, reached out to Joseph Basile – who is listed on the social media site LinkedIn as the head of VinFast vehicle engineering in Australia – for a comment on the unsubstantiated reports.
We will update this story as more information becomes available.