Vietnam imported 3,000 complete built unit (CBU) automobiles worth 45 million USD last month, a 49.8 percent drop in volume and a 55.1 percent fall in value from January 2011, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The number of imported CBU's matches last August's record low.

Industry insiders attributed the fall to economic difficulties, high lending interest rates and strict regulations on import procedures.

"The automobile market in 2012 will have no room for unofficial and small car importers," owner of Hanoi Auto Company Nguyen Van Dung told the English-daily Vietnam News.

Circular No 20 released last May by the Ministry of Industry and Trade aims to re-establish order in the car import market. Officials believe it will put an end to car imports by unauthorised companies.

Analysts have noted that private car dealers have no other option but to shift into the used car business or change fields entirely, giving the playing field over to genuine sales agents selected by manufacturers.

The decision by authorities in Hanoiand HCM City to increase the car ownership registration tax by 5 percent also attributed to the fall in CBU imports.

The country spent more than 1 billion USD on 55,000 imported new cars in 2011, up 2.1 percent in volume and 4.2 percent in value against the previous year. /.