Indonesia's fast-laners doing just fine

In the first half of 2000, BMW sales in Indonesia were up 733% from a year earlier; not bad considering the rupiah lost a quarter of its value.

For the Indonesian elite, life must be getting better. It would appear BMW is fast replacing IMF as the best-known TLA (Three-Letter Abbreviation), if latest sales figures are anything to go by. In the first half of the year, sales of new BMWs soared a massive 733% to more than 1,000 units, while for Asia as a whole the rise was a more modest 17% to 27,476. The German automaker expects its Indonesian new car sales to reach around 2,500 this year รป a major recovery towards the 4,000 achieved in pre-crisis 1997.

Not bad considering the Indonesian economy is expected to deliver just 4% growth this year after stagnation in 1999 and a 13% contraction in 1998. The sharp rise in BMW sales in the first half was all the more impressive given the Indonesian rupiah's value against the dollar fell 25% during the period to 8,760; a level from which it has subsequently weakened to 9,250.

BMW spokesman Ramesh Divyanathan says the sharp rise in sales in part reflects the renewed optimism seen in Jakarta since the presidential elections in October 1999. It would appear this confidence doesn't stretch to stocks, however, as the Jakarta Composite Index has fallen 12% since the election.

The other reason for the surge in demand, says Divyanathan, was BMW's launch of its new 3 Series model. The 2.5 litre 323i sells for Rp450 million ($47,400) a car.

Elsewhere in Asia, BMW sales for the first six months of 2000 in Japan were ahead 2% at 16,927 units; Taiwan was up 23% at 3,492; Singapore up 46% at 1,134; Thailand up 25% at 1,126; Malaysia up 36% at 925; Hong Kong up 38% at 863; Korea up 150% at 781; and mainland China up 130% at 738.

BMW plans to increase its distribution network in mainland China to 21 cities from 11 over the next 18 months.

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