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In Indonesia, it's all about minivans

The Toyota Sienta makes its appearance at the Indonesia International Motor Show on April 7.

JAKARTA -- If the first day of the Indonesia International Motor Show told us anything it is that major automakers think Indonesians like minivans.

     The country's car market is in the doldrums, and global players are desperate to come up with a vehicle that will satisfy driver needs and prove durable on the country's shoddy roads.

     Many carmakers see the show, which kicked off on Thursday and runs through April 17, as an opportunity to shine a light on the latest models they have fine-tuned for use in Indonesia.

     Minivans are particularly appealing to Indonesians, many of whom rely on the vehicles for outings with their families and friends.

     In Indonesia, new car sales broke the 1 million mark in 2012. Since 2014, however, the market has been falling in line with the country's economy. Last year, sales fell 16% to 1.01 million.

     Japanese makers dominate Indonesia's auto market, accounting for more than 90% of the country's new car sales.

     Toyota Motor on Thursday announced it will start selling its seven-seat minivan, the Sienta, in Indonesia, come July. In the same month, the company will also begin producing the model at a plant in Karawang, West Java.

     The version of the vehicle is designed to meet local needs. To better deal with all the bumps, grades and even frequent flooding that Indonesian roads are known for, the body of the upcoming Sienta will be 20mm higher than that of its Japanese counterpart.

     The price tag is expected to be in the range from 230 million rupiah to 295 million rupiah ($17,480 to $22,420).

     Toyota is hoping to attract families and young couples living in urban communities. Hiroshi Kayukawa, the Sienta's chief engineer, called the model functional but at the same time said it looks stylish. In other words, it is both roomy and has nice lines.

     South Korea's Hyundai Motor used the show to put the spotlight on its new H-1. The made-in-Indonesia minivan hit the local market on Thursday. Mercedes-Benz was at the show to tout a luxury minivan. It is the first time for the German carmaker to sell minivans in Indonesia, where it is going head-to-head with a high-end Toyota model.

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