By on July 5, 2013

Chevrolet Spin - Picture courtesy

As far as emerging markets go, Indonesia is one of the hottest. “The country of 240 million people bought one million cars last year, and sales by some estimates are expected to double over the next three years,” says Reuters. The only trouble: Most of the cars are and will be Toyotas. GM wants to do something about it with a no-frill people mover designed in Brazil.

Priced at 139.7 million rupiah ($14,360), the Chevrolet Spin hit showrooms in Indonesia in early May, and was an instant success. “In June, GM sold 1,294 Spin vans, powering the company to sell a total of 1,761 cars that month. While still small, the volume was respectable compared to the company’s annual volume of 5,277 cars last year,” says Reuters. “But GM is still miles behind its Japanese rivals.”

“We started in Indonesia in 1938. We have been so successful, we have seven-tenths of a point of market share in 75 years. Are you kidding me?” Tim Lee, head of GM’s international operations, told Reuters. “That is not constancy of purpose.”

Japanese automakers have more than 90 percent of the 1.1 million unit market that is expected to grow another 10 percent this year. More than half of the cars are made by Toyota companies. Toshiyuki Shiga, COO of Nissan, calls Indonesia the “Toyota Republic.”

GM’s Spin is assembled in a reopened plant that GM had shuttered in 2005. Even at full capacity of 40,000 Spins, it would make only a small dent into the market.

Developed by GM’s Brazil engineering center on a Gamma platform, the seven seater, three row people mover is powered by a 1.8 liter EconoFlex engine, and it is targeted at emerging markets. GM started shipping some of its Indonesia-made Spin cars to Thailand this month and expects to start exporting them to the Philippines next month.

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16 Comments on “GM Takes On Toyota With No-Frills Spin...”

  • avatar

    Before cuing to criticism of the Spin’s looks, don’t forget that is is a car built for a developing market. Cheap, roomy, no-frills vans are the order of the day in Indonesia. Looks are not a priority, though as the Nano has proven, utter crap won’t be tolerated either.

    Rather than trying to import American cars hardly anyone in Japan is interested in buying, and making a stink when no one buys them, the Big 3 should be more focused on chipping away Toyota in all these smaller developing markets where Japan dominates.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t know that cheap cars for developing nations have to look hideous. If looks are not a priority, then there is no reason for car buyers in Indonesia to pick a Chevy over more established brands, who also sell “cheap, roomy, no-frills” vans. By the looks of it, they are very loyal to Toyota similar to immigrants in the US from India and SE Asia who will never be caught dead in a Detroit auto. A Chevy that isn’t any different is not going to make much of an impact.

      Toyota owning 54% market share is insane. At 1.1 million annual sales that is nearly 600,000 units a year! When one company owns more than half the market, there are other factors at play. If GM can sell 40,000 units a year, 8 times 2012 sales, that is still very insignificant compared to Toyota. GM should tie up with Ford and or Fiat to increase their annual capacity to 300,000 units. One out of every two sales they can steal away from the market will come from Toyota and 9/10th’s of every sale will come from a Japanese Automaker.

      • 0 avatar

        “Didn’t know that cheap cars for developing nations have to look hideous.”

        I suppose they do though. They don’t want 1st world tourists coming back from their adventure travel demanding the half priced cars they saw in Djibouti. They do want their 1st world products to be aspirational for their developing economy customers. How aspirational would a Sonic, Spark, or Versa be if your current car was attractive? Besides, I don’t think anyone has stylists on staff that are good enough to make practical cars with small wheels look decent.

        • 0 avatar

          “with small wheels”

          No forgiveness for those, no redemption possible. Will always say “toy”. Something fundamental in the human psyche spits upon them.

          Unless your previous vehicle had hooves, I guess.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t agree. The Mini-Minor looked just fine sitting on its 10 inch wheels. The MKI Golf looked balanced on its 13 inch wheels. Good designers used surface development to make practical shapes attractive ones. I say used, because good designers are extinct.

          • 0 avatar

            But the Mini-Minor could never be marketed as a 3rd world, first-car-ever family/produce carrier that these must be.

            And 13″ wheels from that Golf’s days were fitted with tall sidewall tires that made the cumulative perception of “wheel” far more attractive than today’s 15″/black rubber band standard for low end vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Phil Ossifer

        kinda like me alluster, not only would i not be caught dead in a jap car or any other import for that matter i won’t allow a jap car parked in my driveway. it’s what you call patriotism, something lacking in the USA. if it ever comes to the point i can’t drive an American automobile, i’ll take the bus or walk

  • avatar
    Adrian Roman

    This news has already been published a few days ago:

  • avatar

    How far can these developing markets develop given their population burden, lack of infrastructure and increasing political/religious/racial violence?

    Seems to me Japan got in the game early enough to have its GEACS despite the war and by now has drunk everyone else’s milkshake. And they didn’t stop with East Asia.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I’m guessing that at $14360, the Spin is far too expensive for a such a large population that only bought a million cars last year.

    For perspective, what is the going price for the predominant Toyotas?

  • avatar

    Its about time GM went after went after some of Japan Inc’s other markets. Shipping to Thailand and Philippines is also a good start. If GM can get a toe hold, maybe Ford, Fiat, VW etc. will want to get into the game. For too long no one bothered to compete against the Japanese giants. Now, it seems that is changing.

    • 0 avatar

      Someday maybe you’ll share with us what it is that fuels your anti-Japanese jihad-of-one.

      And I’m not saying you don’t have good cause, I’m just puzzled.

  • avatar


    I can assure I have no Japanese hatred. I worked for a Japanese company, Yokogawa, in the US in 2009. Being US, I do have a bias, which I admit, but we all have biases. My writing here is primarily aimed at the laziness of GM and others auto makers who have allowed Toyota and others Japanese auto makers to expand without even putting up a fight in some markets. But this article can also prove a point I have been pushing of Japanese protectionism. Why GM, Ford, VW, BMW, etc don’t build in Japan, but GM is going forward into a much smaller market (Indonesia) completely dominated (90%) by the Japanese. This should pour cold water on the idea that foreign automakers have no interest to build in Japan, yet are now building all over the world. Why not in Japan?

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