With the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Japanese manufacturers are looking even more favorably on the ASEAN region and especially Vietnam as a base of operations.
Some 43.8% of respondents to a survey by the Mizuho Research Institute cited the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as the region where they plan to devote their greatest efforts moving forward.
Thailand, where auto industry growth is slowing, was cited by 59.7% of companies, but that is a dip of 2.2 points from last year. Interest in Indonesia waned 4.7 points to 41.5%.
That is an increase of 2.3 percentage points over the survey conducted last year and the fourth year in a row that ASEAN topped the list.
The think tank conducted the survey in February, targeting Japanese manufacturers capitalized at 10 million yen ($92,000) or more. The institute received valid responses from 1,100 companies.
Increasing interest in Vietnam was clear from the responses. Asked to list the ASEAN countries in which they plan to focus, 53.5% of manufacturers cited Vietnam, up 4.9 percentage points over last year.
With the signing of the TPP this February, Vietnam has gained attention as an export base for textiles and other products.