RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA (AP) – A Vietnamese automaker announced plans on Tuesday to build a plant in North Carolina to manufacture electric vehicles, promising to bring 7,500 jobs and ending the state’s streak of near-misses for landing carmakers.
VinFast will build its first North American plant in Chatham County southwest of Raleigh, with production expected to start in 2024. It expects to employ 7,500 by 2027 with average salaries of USD51,000, according to the state Commerce Department.
“VinFast’s transformative project will bring many good jobs to our state, along with a healthier environment as more electric vehicles take to the road to help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement.
The company is expected to invest USD4 billion in building the plant on a nearly 2,000-acre site about a 30-minute drive southwest of Raleigh. The plant is planned to be able to manufacture 150,000 cars per year. The state has agreed to use job development grants to reimburse USD316 million over 32 years if it hits job-creation and investment goals. The state is also planning to provide as much as USD450 million for site preparation, road improvements and other infrastructure work.
A release from the state Commerce Department said the manufacturer considered sites in 12 states before narrowing its search to North Carolina and a site in Savannah, Georgia. The release said the workforce, incentives and site preparation were key factors in its choice.
“North Carolina’s strong commitments in building a clean energy economy, fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation make it an ideal location for VinFast to develop its premium, smart and environmentally friendly EVs,” VinFast Global CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy said in a statement.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has plans to organise workers at the new VinFast plant, as well as other electric vehicle and battery factories that are locating in Southern states, union President Ray Curry said on Tuesday. The union has funding available now to start organising efforts, Curry told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.
The union, he said, already has a presence in North Carolina.
“We believe that we are the preferred union,” Curry said. “We are the auto workers, and our goal would be to be able to represent any auto work assembly that would take place in the country, especially EVs that are transforming right now.”
The UAW also will try to organise Ford and General Motors battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as factories run by Tesla and electric vehicle startup Rivian. Both have plants that were represented by the union under previous owners. Such campaigns, depending on their duration, could cost tens of millions of dollars, he said.
Landing the car manufacturing plant is considered a major accomplishment for Cooper, legislative leaders and economic recruiters following a series of disappointments stretching back decades.