Vietnam imported 3,000 complete built unit (CBU) automobiles worth $45 million in January, down 49.8 per cent in volume and 55.1 per cent in value from the same period last year, according to the General Statistics Office (GS0).
The number of imported CBU's matches last August's record low.
Industry insiders attributed the fall to economic difficulties, high lending interest rates and strict regulations on import procedures.
"The automobile market in 2012 will have no room for unofficial and small car importers," owner of Hanoi Auto Company Nguyen Van Dung said.
Officials believe Circular No 20 released last May by the Ministry of Industry and Trade which aims to re-establish order in the car import market, will put and end to car imports by unauthorised companies.
Analysts have noted that private car dealers have no other option but to shift into the used car business or change fields entirely, giving the playing field over to genuine sales agents selected by manufacturers.
"I have to sell all of my cars at discount prices and turn my auto showroom into a restaurant," said Dung, who has been selling imported luxury cars for more than 10 years.
Dung has changed the name of his 200 sq.m car showroom in Gia Lam District from Hanoi Auto Company to Hanoi Beer Auto Restaurant.
The decision by authorities in Hanoi and HCM City to increase the car ownership registration tax by five per cent is another cause for the fall in CBU imports.
The country spent more than $1 billion on 55,000 imported new cars in 2011, up 2.1 per cent in volume and 4.2 per cent in value against the previous year.