Some 26,900 autos valued at 524 million USD were imported into the country in the first five months of this year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

These figures showed an increase of 45.7 percent in volume and 65.4 percent in value over the same period last year.

"More autos are being imported to meet high demand from the domestic market," said Nguyen The Hung, chairman of the KyLin-GX 668 Joint Stock Company.

"Last year, joint-ventures were not allowed to import cars, but thanks to new regulations, joint-ventures such as Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota have been permitted to do so this year. That's why a large volume of autos has been imported since the beginning of the year," Hung added.

In May, 5,500 autos worth 132 million USD were imported, a similar figure to the previous month.

Experts said that imports remained steady this year due to the stable domestic market, thanks to the Government's financial policies.

"However, high interest rates are holding back the domestic market," Hung said.

Talking about the future of the import market, experts said that the market may dip, following the release of new circular 20.

According to the Circular 20 recently announced by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, traders will have to prove they are authorised to be sales agents by providing letters of authority or authorised sales agent certificates.

"Circular 20 will limit imports. Only joint-ventures will import cars because private domestic companies do not want to in this uncertain climate," Hung said.

Agreeing with Hung, Nguyen Trung Hieu of the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers' Association (VAMA) said there would be no big change in the market.

"Circular 20 was released just a few weeks ago and will soon be effective. That doesn't leave those effected with enough time to make last minute investments in imported autos before it comes into effect," Hieu said.

A number of car importers earlier last week met to discuss the new regulation and decided to petition the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Justice, asking for the new regulation to be revised./.