Politicians Promise to Revive Indonesian Auto Industry

By webadmin on 07:56 pm Jan 08, 2012
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Ezra Sihite

In the wake of the enthusiastic public response to the Kiat Esemka cars built by Solo vocational school students, Indonesia’s House of Representatives says it will attempt to revive the national automotive industry.

Members of the House said that it would call a hearing this week with stakeholders.

“The Esemka phenomenon is solid proof of the public’s desperate desire for its own national automotive company,” Aria Bima, deputy chairman of House Commission VI, which oversees trade and industry, said on Saturday.

He said the commission would invite officials from the State Enterprises Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the automotive and railway industries, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), government officials and academics to the hearing.

Aria said the aim of the meeting is to accelerate the development of a national automaker.

On Friday, House Speaker Marzuki Alie said the House was prepared to assign funds for a project to establish a national automaker. He also called for the government and state-owned enterprises to be more involved in the project.

“We can’t allow such a project to be run by private firms,” Marzuki said. “All industries around the world are to a certain extent assisted by state funds. If we leave this to the private sector, we will never have a national carmaker.”

His comments contradict the views of State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, who said he expected state firms to stay clear of the project and allow the private sector to take ownership of it.

Officials from Industri Kereta Api (INKA), a state-owned firm that designs and builds railway rolling stock as well as automotive chassis, are also expected to attend the hearing.

INKA previously had success in building an MPV and a small pickup truck it calls the Gea.

The Gea prototype was then used as a blueprint for students at Makassar’s Hasanuddin University to develop three other models: the N1, Rinra and Tetta. These cars were unveiled to the public in October last year.

LIPI has also built an automotive prototype, a hybrid car that incorporates a conventional gasoline engine and an electric motor.

While these two projects were technical successes, poor publicity surrounding them led to them being stalled in the prototype phase.

But when Solo Mayor Joko Widodo began aggressively promoting the Esemka cars produced by two vocational schools there, the nation took notice.

Claiming that 80 percent of the components used in the cars were sourced locally, the students succeeded in grabbing headlines and reinvigorating hopes for the establishment of a competitive national automaker.

Since their announcement, more schools have announced their own successful automotive projects.

A school in the East Java town of Singosari claimed to have built units of six different car models since 2009. School spokesman Agus Sudarto said that the Education and Culture Ministry in 2010 tasked the school with building 200 engines that would be sent out to other vocational schools for automotive projects.

Additional reporting from Antara