Sat, 19 Jul 2003

Automakers upbeat at major car expo

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Automakers displayed their latest models in an expo said to be the largest in Southeast Asia, hoping that the country's improving economy would help them sell more cars this year.

The nine-day Gaikindo Auto Expo was opened on Friday by Vice President Hamzah Haz and Minister of Industry and Trade Rini MS Soewandi.

"We hope to sell 340,000 cars this year," said Bambang Trisulo, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Automotive Industry (Gaikindo), in his opening remarks.

This is an optimistic projection as Gaikindo earlier in the year had set a weaker target of 317,000 units, slightly lower than last year's actual sales figure of 317,780.

Bambang did not explain the reasons behind the brighter outlook, but carmakers hope that the benign inflation, lower interest rates, and a stronger rupiah would improve consumers purchasing power and confidence to buy new cars.

During the first semester of this year, car sales increased by 7.4 percent to 170,786 units from the same period last year.

However, some analysts warned that although macroeconomic indicators have been improving, it has not translated into new investments in the real sector economy. This and rising political tension in the run up to the 2004 general election may put a brake on car sales.

The auto expo, held at the Jakarta Convention Center, is open until July 27. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee of Rp 20,000.

The organizer expects 200,000 visitors to visit the expo, which covers an area of 35,000 square meters.

Besides global automakers, the event also hosts companies selling motorcycles, spare parts, car accessories, lubricants, car stereo systems and tires.

Japanese motor company Honda showed off a humanoid robot called ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). The robot is expected to draw visitors' attention.

Toyota is also displaying a racing car and sports car that looks like Batman's "batmobile".

"Like other big auto expo, automakers use the expo not merely to sell their products but also to show off new technology they have developed," Hendrayadi Lastiyoso, a manager at PT Toyota Astra Motor, told The Jakarta Post.

The automakers also see the expo as an opportunity to launch or introduce new products.

Germany's automaker Audi launched the A8 and A4 cabriolet. Japanese Suzuki introduced Grand Escudo XL-7, Ford, its family car Everest, France's Peugeot, launched its Partner and American General Motors, its Chevrolet Optra.

Some of them offer discounts or interesting packages for visitors who buy the cars during the expo.

"During this auto expo, we hope to sell 400 vehicles. We're very, very optimistic," said the president of PT Ford Motor Indonesia Will Angove.

Four hundreds vehicles represent half of Ford's sales in the first semester of this year or 800 cars. The American giant holds only a 1.2 percent share of Indonesia's automobile market, dominated by Japanese makers.

Japan's Suzuki, which takes the third largest market share in Indonesia or 20 percent, after Toyota and Mitsubishi, the first and the second respectively, hoped to sell 500 cars during the exhibition, said marketing director Rudjojo Nirjana.