An ASEAN car? Indonesia and Malaysia could produce it

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Could Indonesia and Malaysia collaborate to produce an ASEAN car? It's possible, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. 

Najib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that newly inaugurated Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had expressed interest the idea when they met on Monday, October 20, Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported.

Najib attended Jokowi's inauguration and had a brief meeting with him later in the day.

The report said Malaysia's national car maker, Proton Holdings Bhd, is expected to be involved in the project, if it pushes through.

"A feasibility study of a possible joint production of the ASEAN car by Malaysia and Indonesia will be undertaken and it (the idea) was welcomed by President Jokowi who wants the idea to be pursued further," Najib was quoted as saying. 

"This means Proton and Indonesia will launch the ASEAN car as a viable project after in-depth studies."

But which company would work on it from Indonesia's end? Indonesia does not have a national car maker, but Jokowi has long been a supporter of the student-made Esemka vehicles. 

The homegrown cars quickly gained the support of prominent people, with ministers going on media-covered test drives and politicians announcing bulk orders. Former general Prabowo Subianto, for instance, reportedly ordered 13 of the affordable cars. The Esemka Rajawali SUV, at the time, was being sold for IDR100 million to IDR140 million ($8,400-$11,700).  

But the media hype soon lost steam, and with it the public interest in the Esemka. Only 50 of the cars were sold in 2013. It only made the news again in September 2014 when Jokowi floated the idea of using it as the official vehicle for cabinet ministers.

It's not clear what the goal of producing an ASEAN car is, though, as it would come up against tough competition in an low-cost car industry dominated by Japanese car makers. –