The Government should encourage the development of auto manufacturing centres in Vietnam to help strengthen the domestic auto industry, according to a seminar held in the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone, the central province of Quang Nam on April 14.

While Vietnam has auto manufacturing plants across the country, these factories are scattered, a key weakness in plans for the country to become an auto-producing nation.

A raft of challenges to the domestic auto sector was discussed at the seminar, which attracted hundreds of participants from domestic auto producers and the ministries of industry and trade, planning and investment and transport.

Speaking at the event, Le Duong Quang, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, said the auto industry was considered as a priority for development, and as a crucial contributor to the country's industrialisation and modernisation process.

Quang said a development plan for Vietnam 's auto industry to 2020, with a vision to 2030, should be considered as soon as possible, as it would form the basis of the domestic auto industry's development in the near future and compliment the nation's socio-economic development to 2020.

Speaking at the seminar, Pham Van Liem, Deputy Director of the Institute for Industry Policy and Strategy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said the plan should be considered carefully to satisfy the country's integration requirements and meet domestic consumers' demands.

Liem said the auto industry's development orientation should focus on producing one or two strategic automobile models to supply domestic demand and help develop supporting industries.

He added that development should be based on cooperation among domestic, ASEAN and major global auto producers, and urged a national mechanical auto centre to be set up to help attract investors to the sector.

Liem also suggested that all economic sectors should be encouraged to invest in auto support industries, especially for auto engines, parts and accessories.

Cooperation and transfer of advanced technologies with multinational companies should be also encouraged, he added.

According to the General Statistics Office, the country had 397 automobile makers by the end of 2009. Those manufacturers have a total assembly capacity of 418,000 units per year with 215,000 trucks and 157,000 nine-seater cars per year.

The industrial production value of the auto industry was 19.956 trillion VND (964 million USD) in 2009, accounting for 2.86 percent of the nation's total production value, according to the office.

In its first outing, the seminar was organised by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Quang Nam provincial People's Committee and Truong Hai Auto Joint Stock Company./.