Vietnam imported 10,100 completely built units (CBU) cars worth 180 million USD in the first quarter, up 44.1 percent in volume and 32.2 percent in value year-on-year.

This estimate was furnished by the General Statistics Office (GSO).

Most of the car imports were luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles, according to the Customs Office.

The increasing number of car imports in the recent months has impacted the market of the locally assembled cars, which has been showing a downward trend.

According to the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA), local car makers sold 4,509 units in February, down 46 percent over the corresponding period last year.

Industry insiders claim that the struggling Vietnam's car manufacturing industry has already started importing vehicles well before the country is slated to join the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 2018.

Moreover, in 2013, there was a marked increase in the imports of CBUs. As many as 34,500 CBUs, valued at 709 million USD, were imported, marking an increase of 25.9 percent in volume and 15.2 percent in value, year-on-year.

When the presently applicable high taxes drop to zero in 2018, cars from ASEAN countries are expected to flood the Vietnamese market.

Imports of vehicles are expected to increase in 2014 after a 50 percent reduction in the import tax on cars from ASEAN countries, effective from January 1, this year.

The tax cut is in compliance with Vietnam's signing the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).

Statistics by the Customs Office revealed that 8,826 cars, valued at nearly 150 million USD, were imported from Thailand and Indonesia in 2013, more than double the imports during the same period in 2012.-VNA