VinFast files new plans for assembly building in NC. Chatham begins its review.

In the latest development surrounding its promised multibillion-dollar electric vehicle plant in Chatham County, the Vietnamese carmaker VinFast on Wednesday submitted revised designs for the plant’s general assembly building, which county officials must now approve before construction can commence.

The newest designs are for a general assembly structure spanning 810,100 square feet, Chatham County spokesperson Kara Lusk said in an email Friday.

In July, the county had granted VinFast a foundation permit to begin building a 995,000-square-foot assembly area at the site near the unincorporated town of Moncure. But in December, the company informed Chatham officials it wished to erect an assembly building with a different layout and a smaller footprint of 782,255 square feet.

County officials posted comments on VinFast’s revised design that month and then waited until this week for VinFast to respond. In that time, no building construction occurred at the site, which sits about 30 miles southwest of downtown Raleigh.

On the morning of April 17, The News & Observer reported on this permitting holdup, and drone footage from the newspaper showed no significant vertical construction had occurred in the nine months since VinFast hosted state and local leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony in July.

VinFast sent Chatham officials its revised assembly plant designs at 5:01 p.m. Wednesday, about 12 hours after the N&O story was published.

“To meet the main technology contractor’s design requirements more precisely, we are adjusting the dimensions of the General Assembly workshop,” said Van Anh Nguyen, the CEO of VinFast US Manufacturing, in an email Friday. “By doing so, we can optimize the construction and operational costs of the factory once operational.”

Addressing why it took several months for VinFast to respond to the county’s design comments, Nguyen said, “We require significant time to collaborate with the design team and the technology contractor to finalize the technical design of the workshops. The construction of the workshops must adhere to the equipment/technology contractor’s procedures.”

No work on building structures can take place until the permit is received.

“We anticipate receiving it within the next few weeks,” Nguyen said.

VinFast has proposed building eight several structures at the Moncure site, for a total of almost 3 million square feet. The Chicago-based developer Clayco is leading the project.

Chatham County is reviewing plans for an 850,000-square-foot body shop, and VinFast has received permits for retaining walls, which Lusk said are under construction.

VinFast announced the project in March 2022 after North Carolina and Chatham County offered combined incentives of $1.25 billion. That included more than $300 million in payroll tax benefits if the company meets hiring and investment targets. Under its state job development investment grant, VinFast pledged to create at least 1,997 jobs by the end of this year. That seems unlikely to happen as the company has postponed the plant’s opening.

During an investors call Wednesday, VinFast executives reaffirmed their intention to open the Moncure plant by the end of 2025.

But Nguyen was less committal about a specific timeline Friday, saying, “We will provide construction progress updates as soon as the necessary procedures are completed.”

The plant would be the first major car assembly facility in North Carolina. VinFast pledged to hire 7,500 workers at the factory, which the company initially projected would open in 2024.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce has a purchase option agreement with VinFast — the state can buy all or parts of the company’s 1,765-acre site should the automaker miss hiring and construction deadlines.

The schedule, shared with The News & Observer, includes a deadline for operations to begin by July 1, 2026.

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