The famous American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson opened its first showroom in Vietnam last weekend.

Located in Phu My Hung urban area, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, the showroom displays 27 variations of five motorcycle models – the Sportster, Dyna, Softail, VRSC, Touring and Custom Vehicle Operations – having 900–1,700cc engines.

The first American-made motorcycle, the iconic Harley-Davidson, was made popular in Sai Gon, now Ho Chi Minh City, during the American war in the 1960s. Recently, the motorcycle has become a firm favourite on Hanoi streets too.

Vietnam opened its market for motorcycles of over 150cc in 2008, but the issuing of driving licences for large motorcycles has been very limited, though this will open up further beginning March 1, 2014.

The Ministry of Transport has removed regulations on providing the special A2 licences for motorbikes with an engine capacity of more than 175 cc. The licence was previously limited to specific applicants, typically police officers, military personnel and motorsport athletes.

Sensing the trend, Suzuki Vietnam last year imported a number of high-powered bikes such as the GSX-R1000, GSX-R750, GRX-R600, Inazuma, Intruder M18000 and M800.

Meanwhile, a number of world leading bike makers have set up official dealerships in the country in the past two years, including names such as Benelli, Ducati and KTM.

Ducati was the first European manufacturer to come to Vietnam, setting up a shop in 2009 and within three years, expanding its reach from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi to meet the increasing demand in the north.

Famed Austrian sport brand KTM arrived in August this year and opened dealerships in Hanoi in September after opening its first outlet in the southern hub. The UK's Triumph is expected to join the market soon.

The Vietnamese market has seen significant growth with around 3 million bikes purchased annually. Five joint ventures currently dominate 95 percent of local market share, including Honda, Yamaha, SYM, Suzuki and Piaggio.-VNA