Whisnu Bagus Prasetyo, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inaugurated the assembly plant of Solo Manufaktur Kreasi, producer of the homegrown Esemka, in Boyolali, Central Java, on Friday, marking an important milestone for the local carmaker.
The Esemka, which started off as a car designed and assembled by vocational schools in the province 10 years ago, is currently the closest thing to a national car. The president has been endorsing it since he was mayor of Solo.
"If I look at the product; I have opened it, I have tried it, I have seen it, I have tested it. It falls upon us to buy this car, instead of imported ones," Jokowi said during the inauguration ceremony.
"So many people ask why I want to inaugurate this Esemka factory. That's because I want to encourage the development of the national automotive industry, supporting national brands," he said.
Indonesia is the largest automotive market in Southeast Asia, with more than 1.1 million cars sold across the archipelago annually. However, Japanese brands Toyota and Mitsubishi, and South Korea's Hyundai and Kia dominate.
The companies have helped develop a network of suppliers and assembly plants in Indonesia over the past few decades, but efforts to develop a true Indonesian brand in the mold of Malaysia's Proton have derailed in the past. The Timor car project, backed by Tommy Suharto, son of former President Suharto, failed spectacularly during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
But Jokowi said he was optimistic about the Esemka's prospects. "It won't be easy entering the market today. But if we as a nation want to appreciate our own work, our own brands and principals, the car will sell," he said.
Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto said Solo Manufaktur has registered six models with the ministry, including four versions of commercial single-cabin pickup trucks known as Bima, a double-cabin pickup truck, Digdaya, and a minivan, Borneo.
Airlangga said Solo Manufaktur plans to produce 3,500 Bima pickups this year. The company has a current production capacity of 12,000 vehicles per year.
"The new plant is good news for the Indonesian automotive industry. The Ministry of Industry will continue to encourage domestic supply of automotive components so we no longer need imports," Airlangga said.
Eddy Wirajaya, president director of Solo Manufaktur Kreasi, said the company was still having trouble finding local suppliers to support the production of the vehicles.
"At present, there are only a few local component makers that support Esemka vehicle production," Eddy said.
These include state-owned train maker Inka, which produces the fuel tanks and chassis, Armada Indah Agung Glass, which makes the windshields, Indospring, which supplies springs, and Cikarang Perkasa Manufacturing, which produces the engine and transmission blocks.
"We are just starting. We hope to eventually source all components from Indonesia," he said.