Mon, 08 Nov 1999

Astra expects car sales to hit 80,000 this year

JAKARTA (JP): The country's largest carmaker, Astra International, predicted on Saturday domestic car sales would reach 80,000 this year, up from an initial forecast of 60,000.

The company said it increased the sales target after seeing improved domestic car sales in the first nine months of this year, and especially after the landmark general election in June.

The company said domestic car sales reached 51,635 in the first nine months, compared to sales of 58,312 last year when the economic crisis, which started in mid-1997, became more severe and the country's political situation turned worse following the downfall of former president Soeharto.

Annual car sales reached a peak of 403,000 in 1996 before plunging soon after the financial crisis hit the country in late 1997.

Astra said its domestic car sales markedly rose to 11,212 in September from 4,719 in June and 1,896 in January.

"Domestic car demand is steadily on the rise this year as the public's confidence in the social political situation, especially after the June general election improved and the interest rate fell," the company said in a statement.

Publicly listed Astra also projected domestic motorcyle sales to reach 450,000 this year, up from an initial projection of 420,000.

It said motorcycle sales in the domestic market were recorded at 313,801 in the first nine months, with September sales reaching 54,747, up from 35,242 in June and 14,456 in January.

Domestic motorcycle sales reached 431,185 last year.

Company director Rudyanto Hardjanto said Astra, which sells Toyota, Daihatsu, Isuzu, BMW, Peugeot, Nissan and Honda, accounted for 47 percent of the domestic car market in the first nine months with sales of 24,322.

Astra car exports reached 23,063 in the same period, or 94 percent of the country's total car exports.

With combined car exports and domestic sales of 45,891 for the first nine months of the year, Astra had exceeded its sales of 40,685 last year, Rudyanto said.

Rudyanto said several new products launched by Astra this year, including the new models of Kijang, Daihatsu Taruna, Isuzu Panther and the third series of BMW, had drawn positive responses from the market.

Rudyanto said Astra expected a better performance this year after conducting a debt restructuring and business reorganization along with the strengthening of the rupiah to below Rp 7,000 to the dollar.

He said Astra was forced to reduce work time in production to one shift due to the economic crisis.

He said Astra's workers presently still work one shift, but the company had increased the amount of overtime for workers to increase output.

He also said Astra had improved efficiency and productivity during the monetary crisis.

He said work time for the production of a Kijang van was cut to 83.25 hours from 114.6 hours prior to the crisis, while the productivity of a worker increased to 2.56 Kijang vans per month from 1.88 prior to the monetary crisis.

"We believe the country's automotive sector will improve along with the improvement of the social and political situation," he said. (jsk)