Vietnam’s saturated bike market won't budge

Thanh Nien News

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The assembly line at a Piaggio scooter factory in northern Vietnam. Photo: Kham/REUTERS The assembly line at a Piaggio scooter factory in northern Vietnam. Photo: Kham/REUTERS

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Motorbike sales have fallen for the fourth consecutive year in Vietnam, where manufacturers now hope to export their sizable surpluses.
Last year, retailers here only met 60 percent of their annual sales target.
Numerous promotions and discounts failed to stir business, insiders told Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon Online.
Representatives of foreign brands, which dominate 90 percent of the market, say things haven't gotten any busier -- even during peak sales periods like the end of year and the start of the school year.
Forecasts of low consumption and a saturated market were made years ago, but they hoped discounts and the like could brighten the picture.
Customers seem to still be “tightening their belts,” they said.
Revenues have relied largely on repair and maintenance services, as bike companies sacrifice their narrow margins to promotions.
Honda, Vietnam's top bike, has thrown over VND97 billion (US$4.5 million) into its biggest local sales drive to date, offering VND500,000 to VND1 million ($23.5-47) discounts on a wide range of models.
SYM has cut sticker prices by up to VND2 million ($94) per bike.
The companies have not released their sales figures for 2014.
But according to Vietnam Register, the country’s quality management agency, new motorbike registrations in 2014 dropped to a four-year low of around 2,917, down by 10.8 percent from 2013.
Given that Vietnamese consumers only purchased  60 percent of the country's 2014 factory output, manufacturers say they plan to export the surplus.
Honda bike sales remained flat at two million units during each of the past three years -- during which each of its three local factories churned out 2.5 million, annually.
The company has pushed into new markets such as Italy and Japan, in addition to familiar regional destinations like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Pakistan.
A source said they have plans to turn Vietnam into a base for bike exports.
The government of Vietnam has lately pursued a range of policies designed to limit the rise of motorbikes, blaming them for a growing epidemic of traffic accidents.
According to official figures, the country was home to over 39 million registered motorbikes by early 2014. The government hopes to reduce that number to 36 million by 2020.

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