Motorcycles manufacturers in Vietnam are trying to survive in the face of a prolonged market slump by introducing more budget units with higher domestic content.

The Vietnam Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (VAMM) revealed that from April to September, all of its five members sold a combined 1.25 million units, a seven-percent year-on-year decline. But September witnessed a slight increase in sales due to students' higher demand for new motorcycles during enrolment.

August marked the 15th consecutive month of decline in the volume of motorcycle sales. However, manufacturers remained optimistic and even introduced a number of new models in recent months.

Japanese-funded Honda Vietnam (HVN) seems to be the busiest motorcycle manufacturer. Last month, it introduced three new models: the Vision scooter, Blade and MSX125.

Earlier this year, the company, based in northern Vinh Phuc province, launched four new models and facelifts, including PCX 125 and Wave 110 RSX Fi last January, Air Blade last March and Future last June.

Yamaha Vietnam followed with the launching late last month of the Nouvo SX scooter. Last July, the Hanoi-based company rolled out the new Nozza Grande scooter for high-income female office employees.

Last May, the company also launched Exciter 2014 and Sirius Fi 2014, both facelifts of its earlier models.

Piaggio Vietnam, a subsidiary of Europe's largest scooter manufacturer, is poised to introduce the new Fly 3V scooter. Last June, it rolled out Liberty Restyling 2014, targeting high-income earners.

Last April, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer rolled out the new Vespa Sprint, a sportier version of the new Primavera scooter that the company introduced in Vietnam in November 2013.

Higher local content and more exports
To reduce prices, most foreign motorcycle manufacturers in Vietnam successfully increased the domestic content of their units.

According to the VAMM, most of its member companies achieved a 90-percent domestic content rate.

Taiwanese manufacturer SYM is apparently leading as most of its products have 95-percent domestic content.

Honda Vietnam (HVN) followed, with many of its products having 90- to 95-percent domestic content, including Air Blade, Future, Wave and SH Mode.

Though the domestic motorcycle market continues to decline, HVN still sets its sales target for both domestic and export markets in fiscal year April 2014 to March 2015 at two million units, a six-percent year-on-year increase.

About three million motorcycles are consumed in Vietnam every year. The five big joint ventures in motorcycle manufacturing alone churn out four million units a year. The oversupply compels manufacturers to boost exports and turn Vietnam into the world's motorcycle production base.

Many producers have already begun exporting their units, mostly to other Asian markets and to Africa.

Figures from the Vietnam General Department of Customs showed that the export value of transport vehicles, mostly motorcycles, increased by 32.2 percent last year to 4.6 billion USD, or four percent of Vietnam's total export revenues.

From March to October, HVN earned 200 million USD in revenues from exports. The company's target export turnover for the entire year is 247 million USD. HVN also plans to gradually make Vietnam a motorcycle export centre of Honda Motor Corporation.

Piaggio Vietnam revealed that after increasing its annual output to 300,000 units, the company would increase exports to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Motorcycles are the most popular means of transportation in Vietnam, which has a population of 90 million people, 37 million registered motorcycles and two million registered cars, according to the Ministry of Transport.

With sales totalling 3.1 million units last year, Vietnam is the fourth largest motorcycle market in sales after China, India and Indonesia.-VNA