Vietnam last year spent US$1.57 billion on importing 72,000 cars, surging 103.8 percent and 117.3 percent in volume and value compared to 2013, respectively, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).
Both the imported volume and value of foreign-made cars were the highest rates ever, said GSO. In December, about 10,000 vehicles worth $227 million were imported, said GSO.
According to the Association of Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers (VAMA), as of November 2014, VAMA members sold 34,501 imported cars, up 76 percent compared to the same period in 2013, and 103,101 other locally assembled vehicles.
In early December, the GSO predicted that the value of imported cars in 2014 would hit a record high of $1.5 billion after it published the figures on imported cars in the first eleven months of 2014.
Specifically, in the November report, the GSO said the amount of imported cars reached 10,000 units with turnover reaching $ 200 million. If the number in December maintained the same level as November, the estimated turnover would continue to increase significantly, to $227 million.
However, this was just the estimated number, which can completely change after full data is collected, said the GSO in the report.
The volume and value of imported cars also increased month over month in the last four months of last year, with 7,000 cars ($160 million) in September, 8,000 cars ($172 million) in October, 10,000 cars ($200 million) in November, and 10,000 cars ($227 million) in December.
The increase in imported cars within the past year is a trend can be seen quite clearly.
In fact, by the end October, the total value of imported cars surpassed the figures of 2013 with 51,000 units worth $1.118 billion, compared to 34,500 units worth $709 million in all of 2013.
2014 has been identified as the most exciting year in the past half-decade for the automobile market in Vietnam.
Therefore, the strong growth momentum and continuously maintained high rate of imported cars is completely understandable, said local experts.
Another difference is that the growth rate of imported vehicles always remained higher than the locally assembled vehicles from the beginning of 2014.
The growth of imported cars also showed quite clearly at the Vietnam Motor Show 2014, which took place in late November in Ho Chi Minh City, the third consecutive event of its kind held in the southern economic hub.
At the exhibition, the biggest show of the year in Vietnam, the number of imported car brands increased to nine, equaling the number of VAMA members.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, though car sales are booming in Vietnam, local manufacturers face growing competition from imports ahead of the planned scrapping in 2018 of import tariffs on cars from other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"Domestic manufacturers are still developing, and therefore are not much competition to companies that are importing," Nikkei Asian Review quoted Edward Barbour-Lacey, a senior editor of the business advisory publication Vietnam Briefing, as saying.