Mardika Parama, Jakarta – Indonesian carmakers are looking at the export market to boost sales and increase factory utilization rates as the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to continue wreaking havoc on the domestic car market.
Association of Indonesian Automotive Manufacturers (Gaikindo) secretary-general Kukuh Kumara said on Monday that the country's carmakers were working with the Trade Ministry, Industry Ministry and Foreign Ministry to lobby car brands, also known as "principals", to reallocate domestic car production to international orders.
"The principals have to agree for Indonesian-made car to be exported to other countries, and authorizing additional car variants for export from Indonesia," Kukuh said during an online discussion organized by marketing consulting firm Markplus.
The COVID-19 crisis has battered car sales this year with declining purchasing power of consumers and the temporary closure of showrooms. The association has slashed its domestic car wholesales target by 40 percent to 600,000 units this year.
Gaikindo recorded around 323,400 cars sold between January and August, down more than 50 percent from 661,000 sold during the same period last year.
Kukuh said that reallocating car production orders from the domestic to the international market could boost the utilization rates of factories, which were currently running far below capacity as carmakers have slashed production in response to plummeting demand.
According to Gaikindo data, Indonesian car production from January to August plummeted 48.5 percent year-on-year (yoy) to 427,600 units, far below Indonesia's annual car production capacity of around 2.3 million units.
"Domestic [production] cannot reach an optimal level when there are no sales. Therefore, what we could do is [focus] on exports," Kukuh said.
Exports of completely built-up (CBU) amounted to 133,860 units from January to August, down 34.9 percent from around 205,800 units in the same period of last year, Gaikindo data show. Meanwhile, completely knocked-down (CKD) car exports also fell significantly, dropping to 25,142 units as of August this year from around 333,800 units in the same period last year.
Statistics Indonesia (BPS) cited the decline in four-wheel vehicle exports as a contributor to the 1.18 percent decrease in non-oil and gas export in the January-August period, as overall exports fell by 4.62 percent to US$13.07 billion.
Gaikindo now expects to export 175,000 cars in 2020, down from the initial target of around 350,000 to 400,000.
Fitch Solutions on Tuesday released an analysis regarding Indonesia's domestic car demand, which portrays a picture similar to Gaikindo's projection.
The rating agency projects continued subdued demand in Indonesia's car market due to renewed large-scale social distancing measures in Jakarta and cities across Java in September amid the persistent rise in COVID-19 cases in the country. The total COVID-19 tally reached 257,300 cases on Wednesday.
Fitch expects car retail sales to drop by more than 40 percent in 2020 and the recovery to the 2019 sales level to take at least 18 months.
"The possible renewal of movement restrictions in other provinces with high COVID-19 [case numbers] presents further downside risk. These provinces are mostly in the Java area, which contributes around 80 percent to Indonesia's car market," the analysis reads.
RHB Sekuritas analyst Andrey Wijaya told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that export market expansion seemed to be car companies' long-term strategy but was now sought to offset the steep fall in domestic sales.
"The export expansion is more of a long-term strategy, alongside the construction of new industrial zones intended for the automotive industry. This is the right strategy, because the automotive sector's prospects in Indonesia are still great," he said.
Furthermore, he said, the principals were likely to grant Indonesian carmakers' requests regarding the reallocation of the car production for the export market, if they saw potential in global market demand.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in early June forecast that automotive sales would nosedive between 14 to 22 percent in the markets of China, the US and Europe in 2020.
Under BCG's two most likely scenarios, car sales in the three major global markets would remain below the 2019 number of 62.5 million units until 2023 or 2024.