Business, Finance & Economics

Indonesia's student-built car, Esemka, closer to mass production


Prototype cars made by engineering students in Solo, Central Java, on January 6, 2012. Ten prototypes of the car, named 'Kiat Esemka', were manufactured in joint projects involving students from a dozen high-school polytechnic schools.



As brands go, it's fairly compelling: a line of vehicles, designed by tech school students, that evokes youth, ingenuity and national pride.

The "Esemka" -- a play on the Indonesian pronunciation of the acronym for tech schools -- may soon go into mass production.

The student-designed vehicles recently failed emissions tests, according to the Jakarta Globe, but have few other criteria to meet before they're cleared for production.

The mayor of Solo, where the cars were conceived, told the Globe that getting a 300-cars-per-month production facility started will require investors to throw down another $10 million. That shouldn't be too difficult to raise. And it would complement smaller tech school-run brands in Indonesia, namely the cutesy Tawon and the Komodo.

Indonesia is a major assembler of (largely Japanese) brands and these tech schools are the feeder system for that industry. Giving rise to homegrown styles that can compete with time-tested Japanese and European models will be difficult.

But with Indonesia's car sales increasing, a car like the Esemka could very well capture a small slice of the market -- especially if marketers use its "Made in Indonesia" tag and feel-good "designed by students" novelty to the brand's advantage.