Current chair of ASEAN woos investment, promotes ecosystem for new energy vehicles

Wuling Air electric vehicles at the camp of Wuling Motors Indonesia are on standby for the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. Wuling provided commuter services for delegations to and from the summit venue from May 9 to 11. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

LABUAN BAJO, Indonesia — There were about a dozen cars on standby at around 8:30 am at the Wuling Motors Indonesia camp during the 42nd ASEAN Summit from May 10-11, out of a fleet of 50 cars.

The other Wuling Air electric vehicles were on duty. The Wuling EVs were in Indonesia to provide commuter services for delegations to and from the summit from May 9-11 in the tourist town of Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara province.

Over 370 EVs were deployed to provide the biannual summit with transportation, including 282 specifically used for delegates.

Dian Asmahani, brand and marketing director for Wuling Sales Indonesia, said Wuling was proud to be part of the service for the summit, as well as Indonesia's efforts to develop an EV ecosystem both at home and in Southeast Asia.

As with its Group of 20 presidency last year, Indonesia — the current Association of Southeast Asian Nations' chair — employed the summit to promote the development of an EV ecosystem in ASEAN, a key step in its domestic and regional new energy transition to reduce emissions.

An agreement on this would be ratified at the summit, according to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi earlier this year.

"The theme of the 42nd ASEAN summit is ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth. As reflected by the use of EVs during the ASEAN summit, Indonesia is keen to accelerate the transition to greener mobility within the region and wants to make ASEAN the epicenter of growth for electric vehicles as well," Asmahani said.

As the official auto partner at the G20 summit held on the resort island of Bali in November 2022, Wuling provided 300 cars for transportation services. For another ASEAN summit scheduled for September this year, many Wuling EVs will also be in service, Asmahani said, adding, "I think Wuling as a car brand wants to actively participate in EV growth and also the enhancement of electrification in Indonesia."

The Indonesian government has announced policies to woo investment for developing an EV industrial chain from upstream to downstream, and it plans to provide incentives for the sales of 200,000 electric motorcycles and 35,900 electric cars by the end of this year.

Asmahani thinks subsidizing 10 percent of the value-added tax for EV buyers since April demonstrates particularly strong support from the government for developing the EV ecosystem.

In 2022, official data showed the Indonesian automotive market saw sales of about 1.048 million units, including over 30,000 Wuling cars, or 2.9 percent. The Wuling Air EV model ranks top in sales in the new energy vehicle segment, accounting for over 78 percent of the total.

The new energy model has turned out to be Indonesian consumers' favorite, boasting cumulative sales of over 8,600 units since its launch in August.

"The Air EV is the newest version of electric vehicles manufactured by SGMW for the world, and Indonesia has become the first station," Shi Guoyong, president director of Wuling, said at its roll-out ceremony at Wuling's production factory in Bekasi, West Java province.

Wuling Motors Indonesia operates as a subsidiary of major Chinese automaker SAIC-GM-Wuling, which is a joint venture between SAIC Motor, General Motors and Liuzhou Wuling Motors based in Liuzhou, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Currently, Wuling has more than 150 local dealers in Indonesia, with a total of eight types of vehicles produced and sold locally.

In the EV sector, Wuling is not the only Chinese player in Southeast Asia. China's leading EV manufacturer BYD held a groundbreaking ceremony in March for its first car plant in Thailand, while Great Wall Motor, China's leading sport utility vehicle and pickup manufacturer, highlighted its three NEV models at the Malaysia Autoshow 2023 from May 4 to 7.

Looking ahead, Wuling will focus its efforts on the Indonesian market, Asmahani said on May 9 at the Wuling camp in Labuan Bajo. She is confident of Wuling's prospects with the Air EV model in the Indonesian market.

"It is a smart, very good solution for the Indonesian market," she said, noting that apart from being suitable for the road conditions in Indonesia, its price is affordable to Indonesian consumers, which has remained unaffected by inflation.

The car is small, measuring 3 meters in length, 1.5 meters in width and 1.6 meters in height, making it a top choice for driving on Labuan Bajo's two-lane roads leading to the summit's main venue, media center and hotels.

"The car is cute," said Brian Gomgom, public relations manager for Wuling Motors Indonesia. The Wuling camp in Labuan Bajo is staffed with about 80 people, including drivers.

Pointing to a Wuling car painted pristine white, Gomgom explained the detailing on the car's body in addition to the summit logo, saying the special patterns — largely in red and yellow — mark the local culture of Labuan Bajo. Also, the Wuling motto "Shaping Clean Tomorrow "can be seen, he added.

At the summit, Asmahani said Wuling provided services for 13 delegations, keeping three cars in mobile status for each, and operating for 12 hours a day starting from about 8:00 am.

"Being part of the ASEAN summit once again proves our commitment to accelerating green mobility in the global market," she said.