JAKARTA (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Chinese and South Korean carmakers are leading Indonesia's drive towards green mobility by producing electric vehicles (EV) locally that may be sold at affordable prices in a market traditionally dominated by the Japanese.
China's SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile launched a mini electric car, Wuling Air EV, at the 11-day Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show last Thursday (Aug 11) in South Tangerang, Banten.
Earlier on Aug 8, its local subsidiary began production of the four-seat vehicle in its factory in Cikarang, Bekasi, West Java.
Indonesia was chosen by Wuling to unveil the new model for the first time globally, as "the automotive industry in Indonesia develops very fast", while "its potential to grow is still huge", said brand and marketing director Dian Asmahani.
During a one-month pre-booking period that ended on Aug 10, the company received 1,500 orders for the model. Its price starts from 238 million rupiah (S$22,220), around the same as a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), the most popular car category in Indonesia.
"We don't have a specific (sales) target (until the end of this year), as Wuling Air EV is a new model, the first electric car Wuling produces in Indonesia," Dian told The Straits Times.
Despite enormous opportunities in the Indonesian market, Wuling - a driving force in China's expanding EV market - is also eyeing other markets in the region, including Singapore.
"When Wuling first invested in Indonesia, we wanted to make it an export production hub in South-east Asia," Dian said.
For now, its local factory can produce 10,000 EVs a year, but it will be flexible to adjust with the market demand as its overall production capacity reaches 120,000 vehicles annually, she noted.
Wuling Air EV is powered by a home-charge battery with a driving range from 200km to 300km.
Indonesia, home to more than 270 million people and where vehicle sales is an indicator of consumption, hopes EVs will make up one-fifth of vehicle sales by 2025. More than 887,000 vehicles were sold last year, and EVs totalled around 700.
South-East Asia's largest economy aims to become a global hub for EV production and export, banking on its abundant reserves of nickel laterite ore used in lithium batteries.
While 80 per cent of its domestic market is traditionally dominated by Japanese brands, such as Toyota and Daihatsu, they have yet to make EVs locally.
The country's chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto revealed in late July that Toyota plans to invest 27.1 trillion rupiah in Indonesia in the next five years to produce EVs. Another Japanese marque, Mitsubishi, will invest about 10 trillion rupiah in the country from 2022 to 2025 to produce hybrid and battery EVs.
In March, South Korea's Hyundai kicked off the production of its electric five-seater Ioniq 5 at its factory in Cikarang, which is currently capable of producing 150,000 vehicles a year.
Four variants of Ioniq 5 are sold, costing from 748 million rupiah to 859 million rupiah each.
Hyundai Motor Indonesia has received nearly 3,500 orders for Ioniq 5 since its launch in March, chief operating officer Makmur told ST.
Noting that the EV is "very well received" in Indonesia, one of its key markets in South-east Asia, he said: "Indonesia has a big opportunity to develop the EV ecosystem. It has sufficient natural resources and Indonesians are very open to the development of technology."
Makmur added that Hyundai is open to opportunities to sell Indonesia-made EVs to other countries.