Auto expo goes ahead despite
political showdown

By Damar Harsanto

JAKARTA (JP): While the country anxiously watches the escalating political showdown between President Abdurrahman Wahid and legislators, hundreds of automotive companies will proudly exhibit their products for car aficionados at Gaikindo's 11th Auto Expo 2001 from Saturday to next Sunday.

The venue is the Jakarta Convention Center, which is only meters away from the legislative building, which has been the focal point for many demonstrations both in support of and against President Abdurrahman and where the legislators are preparing to impeach the President.

Placing worries aside, 125 automotive companies have confirmed their participation in the expo, organizers said.

""Yes, we are worried by the fact that all can go wrong, but all members have confirmed to participate, except Timor and Mercedes-Benz. Just pray that everything will run peacefully,"" F. Suseno, coordinator for the Gaikindo exhibition told The Jakarta Post.

Suseno said Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut B. Pandjaitan is confirmed to open the exhibition, which is held by the Association of Indonesian Automotive Industries (Gaikindo).

Weeks before the exhibition, many automakers were busy introducing their latest car models, that will be displayed during the expo.

French-Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co Ltd introduced the Nissan Sentra and the Nissan X-trail models.

""We're eager to be back in Indonesia, not for one or two years, but for the long term as Indonesia is a promising market,"" visiting Nissan president and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn said.

Nissan is not alone as French automotive giant Renault S.A., which also owns a 36.8 percent stake in Nissan, said last month that it was set to reenter the country's auto market.

Renault launched four new models on Friday, that is Kangoo, Scenic, Clio and Laguna.

""We have decided to start now. We are committed for the long term as we think Indonesia is among the key markets in the Asia Pacific region,"" Christine Lavoie-Gagnon, corporate communications manager of Renault Group Liaison Office, told The Post

Meanwhile, American automaker General Motors Corp has also unveiled two sports cars -- the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Subaru Forester.

""We've studied the opportunities that are available here and we think it is the right time for us to enter the country's auto market now,"" Geoff Bedford, director of sales operations for General Motors Asia Pacific said.

The Subaru cars are made by the automotive division of the Japanese firm Fuji Heavy Industries which is now 20 percent owned by General Motors following a $1.4 billion share acquisition last year.

Local automakers are no less eager.

PT Toyota Astra Motor introduced on Thursday its new Corolla Altis model to boost its presence in the local automotive market. Meanwhile, PT Astra Daihatsu Motor unveiled the following day its Daihatsu Ceria and All-EFI Taruna.

The rising political tension between the legislators and the President did not seem to discourage the automakers from taking part in the expo.

Gaikindo's chairman Bambang Trisulo commented that many automakers had long term plans to penetrate or strengthen their position in the country's auto market.

""Of course, Indonesia's great population makes it a potential market target for both the international and local auto industry. But, we cannot predict what will be the outcome of the current heated political climate,"" Bambang said.

Car makers opted for going ahead with their plans despite possible risks, as they did not wish to delay their entry any longer, he said.

""They must dare to take the risks as the moves are closely related to their business survival,"" Bambang said.

Bambang also said the automakers were determined to participate in the exhibition amid the unfavorable climate because they were convinced that the current political tension would soon abate.

Automotive observer Soehari Sargo said most of the automakers who aggressively launched their products lately were still in the first phase of building their marketing networks.

""What they've done up until now, is just to strengthen their marketing networks,"" Soehari said.

""They may have plans to invest in the country but they will wait until there are market responses to their products and the country's investment climate is more favorable,"" he said.

Gaikindo has projected national car sales at 280,000 units this year, as against more than 300,000 last year. (03)

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