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Workers assemble cars at a Honda factory in Thailand.
Auto Industry Upheaval

Honda tries to restart exports to Vietnam

First test of country's tighter import controls watched by carmakers

HIROSHI KOTANI, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

BANGKOK -- Two months after Vietnam put in place a rule requiring stringent inspections of imported vehicles, some 2,000 Honda Motor passenger cars are slated to arrive at a port near Hanoi early next week, likely the first batch of foreign-made autos to undergo the new checks.

The development is drawing the attention of other automakers, which have suspended shipments to Vietnam and are watching closely to see if the new import procedures have any snags.

Some 2,000 Honda cars, including the CR-V sport utility vehicle, that had been kept in nearby Thailand were shipped off Feb. 26, marking the Japanese automaker's first shipment from that country to Vietnam in about two months. The fleet arrived at the port of Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday and is scheduled to reach the port of Hai Phong, near Hanoi, Monday.

Vietnam's Decree 116, which took effect Jan. 1, requires quality certifications from the country where vehicles are built, as well as testing after unloading in Vietnam.

The rule has been criticized as an effective nontariff barrier designed to protect Vietnam's domestic industry. It is also seen as running counter to the efforts of the ASEAN Economic Community, whose mission is to integrate the economies of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

A new CR-V model manufactured in Thailand is displayed at a Honda showroom in Hanoi on Jan. 16.

Honda has obtained a quality certification from Thai authorities, clearing one of the hurdles. The Vietnamese government apparently accepted the document.

The next challenge will be the checks at Hai Phong. The inspections are expected to cover one vehicle per trim level. Honda apparently is not certain about what happens at each stage of the procedures, and anticipates delivery of the vehicles to dealerships no earlier than April.

Cars not undergoing inspection will be left in port, with Honda shouldering the risk of any damage to them.

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