Vietnam's sales of domestically assembled cars rose 23 percent year on year in January, thanks to strong car sales before the Lunar New Year holiday.

Amid an economic slowdown, consumers in one of the emerging auto markets in the region bought 11,066 vehicles last month, including 8,326 cars and 2,740 trucks, the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA) has said.

The northern region continued to be the biggest buyer with 3,729 units, followed by the south with 3,494 units and the central region with 1,472 units.

The sales of sport utility vehicles (SUV) and multi-purpose vehicles (MPV) registered the highest growth rate of 74 percent, followed by passenger cars which saw a growth rate of 9 percent.

The latest data, which excludes adjustments for seasonal factors, came from VAMA which comprises the country's 18 leading car makers.

"This is the tenth consecutive month when the industry volume has been higher than the same period last year," VAMA chairman Jesus Metelo Arias said in a statement on February 14.

Jesus said with this momentum, he forecasts 120,000 units for 2014, a growth of 9 percent over 2013.

Besides the booming demand before Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, attractive discounts offered by automakers have also helped, industry insiders said.

In order to keep the market vibrant following the prolonged economic slowdown, most car makers announced retail price cuts between 6 million VND (295 USD) and 58 million VND (3,330 USD).

Meanwhile, the strong momentum of last year's sales also helped accelerate the January bonanza. The sales of domestically assembled cars in Vietnam rose 19 percent in 2013, with 110,519 vehicles being sold.

The recovery in demand last year was aided by a brighter economic outlook, attractive financing deals, price discounts and lower car registration fees.

The results surpassed the industry group's forecast of 10 percent growth for the entire year and marked a strong rebound in one of the smallest auto markets in the region after years of stagnation.

Also in January, Vietnam imported 3,000 completely built unit cars (CBU) worth 58 million USD.

This was a decrease of 33 percent in volume and 55 percent in value compared with the previous month, the General Statistics Office has estimated.

However, the import volume in January is 9.9 percent higher than the corresponding period last year, the office said.

The country imported 34,500 CBU cars worth 709 million USD last year, an increase of 25.9 percent in volume and 15.2 percent in value compared with 2012.

The rising number of imported vehicles is seen as evidence of restored consumer confidence following the improvements in the economy.

However, the number of vehicles imported last year is still lower than the 2011 figures, when 54,600 autos valued at over 1 billion USD were imported.

Vietnam's auto market in the past 13 months proved to be one of the few that registered growth against the backdrop of the global downturn. The country's auto market endured a prolonged bleak patch in the past two years which were beset by economic difficulties and tighter financing deals.-VNA