December has seen an additional 3,000 complete build-up vehicles shipped into the country, taking the total number of imported autos this year to 34,500 units worth 709 million USD, learnt the Saigon Times Daily, quoting sources from the General Statistics Office (GSO).

GSO said that the import of CBU units in 2013 shows an increase of 25.9 percent in volume and 15.2 percent in value. The rising number of imported vehicles shows the restored confidence of consumers.

However, the number of vehicles imported this year is still lower than that in 2011 when as many as 54,600 autos were imported worth over 1 billion USD. The 2010 figures were not much lower, meaning the consumption a few years back was much stronger than now.

Last year saw the lowest consumer confidence in the past five years, and the slump in imported autos in 2012 was attributed to high registration fees at home and tentative schemes by the Ministry of Transport to slap various additional fees on car owners.

The rebound in 2013 is due to Hanoi slashing the registration fee to 12 percent from the previous 20 percent, while Ho Chi Minh City also has plans to cut the fee by two percentage points to 10 percent effective from January 1. In addition, the ministry has promised to drops its plan to impose additional fees on car owners.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Toyota luxury Lexus brand officially debuted in Ho Chi Minh City on December 26, adding a new member to Vietnam’s high-end car market.

General Director Yoshihisa Maruta was quoted by the radio Voice of Vietnam as saying that Lexus is aiming to become Vietnam’s leading luxury automotive brand.

The company will focus on consolidating the reputation of its trademarks and ensuring the best quality of customer care. Lexus also inaugurated Lexus Sai Gon Centre, its first agent in Vietnam, with investment capital totalling more than 200 billion VND (9.4 million USD).

It released the Vietnamese price listings for its LS460, GS350, ES350, LX570, and RX350 models, which range from an entry level of 2.5 billion VND to 5.7 billion VND at their most expensive. All Lexus cars are imported from Japan and include three-year warranties and maintenance policies.

Observers expect the Vietnam’s auto market growth momentum will continue into 2014 owing to lower fees. In addition, autos imported from ASEAN countries will be subject to an import tariff of 40 percent from January compared to the current 50 percent, which will be a strong boost for imported autos.-VNA