* Jump comes despite stricter downpayment rules
* Sales surge on growing middle class, low interest rates
* Competition heating up with new Toyota, Daihatsu models
By Rieka Rahadiana
JAKARTA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Indonesian auto sales surged 25 percent to a record in 2012 and look set to keep growing strongly this year as sharply rising wages and low interest rates encourage more consumers to swap two wheels for four.
The jump in annual sales to 1.1 million vehicles comes despite more stringent downpayment requirements. In December alone sales climbed 11.4 percent from a year earlier.
A key indicator of domestic consumer spending, auto sales have been emblematic of a sterling year for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, although weakness in global demand for commodities has recently taken some shine off the country’s economic performance.
Automakers, however, are developing more affordable cars for the domestic market with the latest offerings from Toyota Motor Corp and Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd priced under $10,000 to compete with models from Nissan Motor Co and Tata Motors Ltd. Expectations are high for continued robust sales.
Bahana Securities estimates 18 percent growth in 2013 and 2014 though others say the pace of growth this year could slow due to regulatory efforts.
“There is downside risk from regulation noise as Jakarta’s provincial government is keen to tackle congestion,” said Adrian Joezer, an auto analyst at Mandiri Sekuritas, who predicts 10 percent growth this year.
The Indonesia Automotive Industry Association has forecast 2013 sales at 1.1 million vehicles.
“There are still impediments in 2013 which, according to our consideration, it will cause sales obstacles, such as government downpayment regulations and low commodity export prices,” Sudirman Maman Rusdi, chairman of the association told Reuters.
Industry leader Toyota led sales with 406,026 vehicles sold in 2012, accounting for a 36 percent market share.
The shift to autos has hit sales of motorbikes, which fell 12 percent last year to 7 million.
Additional reporting by Yayat Supriatna, Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Matt Driskill