Jakarta, IO – The world of automobiles during Indonesia’s independence was bare and empty. During the period of 1945–1966, Indonesia was merely a new republic, one at an early stage of economic development, when there was only one car assembler: General Motors (GM) in Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, originally set up in 1927.
The Indonesian government then took control of it in 1949, and changed the name to PN Gaja Motor. In 1951, President Soekarno built a second car assembly in Lodan, North Jakarta: NV Indonesia Service Company (ISC).
As reported in the book “Automotive Industry for the Nation” by Agus Tjahajana Wirakusumah, the car trade was only observable among several certain people who were mostly foreigners, such as John C. Potter, H. O’Horne, Jan Spijker, J. A. Berkhamer, and H. Jonkhoff. They controlled the car trade in big cities like Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya.
Only a few Indonesians were in the car trading business: Soenarjo Gondokoesoema with Chevrolet and Pontiac cars. Another popular name was known as the prominent King of Indonesian Cars: Hasjim Ning. Hasjim was appointed by Soekarno as President Director of NV Indonesia Service Company (ISC).
As stated in Merdeka, the late President Soekarno appointed Hasjim, as he had been a well-known car entrepreneur. In the 1930s, Lieutenant Colonel Hasjim owned a Chrysler car agency and a car repair shop: Jakarta Motors Company.
Hasjim Ning, who was also a close relative of Bung Hatta, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, became the first man of ISC and had a Ford car license. Hasjim was also a car importer and American car agent for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Ning and his partners also owned the licenses for Leyland and Land Rover, English automotive brands, and the Italian car Fiat. Hence, he was dubbed the “King of Indonesian Automobiles”, or the “Indonesian Henry Ford”.
Hasjim, a Minangkabau migrant, came to Jakarta in 1937 and was appointed the representative of NV Velodrome Motorcars in Tanjung Karang, Lampung, two years later. He soon became a coal mine contractor in Tanjung Enim in 1941. Hasjim Ning returned to Java to manage tea and quinine plantations in Cianjur when the war broke out. His dream of becoming a soldier was not approved by his parents; even so, he fought for the country in a Cianjur battle in 1945. He retired in 1950 as a lieutenant colonel.
Hasjim carried on trading automobiles and established the Djakarta Motor Company, where he rose to prominence as one of the nation’s most prosperous businesspeople under the Old Order Government’s “Fortress Program.”
After two years, the business developed into the first car assembly business in Indonesia, the Indonesian Service Station.
Apart from being a car assembly entrepreneur, he also expanded his business to include import-export, banking, travel agencies, cosmetics factories, and engineering consulting, employing no less than 3,000 employees. He was also a member of the board of commissioners of PT Jaya, Daha Motor, Jakarta Motor, Kemang Hotel, Sriwijaya Insurance, PACTO, and Central Commercial Bank.
Paris Match, a French magazine, interviewed Hasjim at the beginning of 1984. He once said that the car assembly business in Indonesia did not run well because it had to compete with Japan, while his companies assembled European and American cars. One of the spots he missed was the fact that his European and American car assembly companies followed a bureaucracy, while the Japanese car producers immediately introduced their types of cars. Nonetheless, Hasjim was successful in his business, which led him to serve as General Chair of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) for the 1979–1982 period.
Born in Nipah, Padang, West Sumatra, on August 22, 1916, Hasjim Ning died at the age of 79 from heart and kidney disease. Despite his passing at Medistra Hospital Jakarta on December 26, 1995, Hasjim Ning was immortalized as the “King of Indonesian Cars”. (rp)