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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 18:01 GMT
Vietnam sees car sales soar
Luxury Mercedes model
Luxury models reflect status and earning power

As Vietnam battles to control the mayhem caused by 10 million motorbikes on the country's roads, new figures show that more people are shifting to cars as their preferred transport.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of Vietnam's 80 million people work on small farms, there has been a huge growth in the number of luxury cars sold.
cyclists in Vietnam
Cycling used to be the most popular form of transport

The Vietnam Automakers Association says that last year, the industry recorded the best growth in a decade.

Sales increase

The carmakers' association has credited rising incomes and falling prices for the record number of new vehicles sold last year - a total of almost 27,000.

There are about 600,000 cars on Vietnam's roads, with growth last year reaching around 40%.

The most popular models sold were Toyota, the South Korean joint venture company, Vietnam-Daewoo, and Ford, who together hold about half the new car market.

More and more cars, trucks and buses are honking their way through the two-wheel traffic as incomes rise and roads improve.

But perhaps the most interesting growth is in the luxury car market.

Status symbols

Big, shiny four-wheel-drives and sleek prestige models are being spotted more often.

In fact, sales of Mercedes Benz doubled last year on the previous year with 40% growth - it holds close to 10% of the overall market.

More than 2,500 Mercedes were sold, including more than 400 luxury cars which retail for up to about $80,000 (50,000).

The average worker takes home about $22 (14) a month, of which she or he will save about five dollars.

Which raises the question - who is buying the new cars?

The Mercedes-Benz dealership in southerly Ho Chi Minh City says their customers include business people in the private sector and state owned enterprises, and government officials.

It is a sign of rising incomes in Vietnam, as well as the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

And the increasing number of cars will put more pressure on the government as it tries to improve public transport to ease traffic congestion and reduce road deaths.

See also:

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