Indonesia is definitely the land flowing with milk and honey for when it comes to car companies selling MPVs there, but of course being a developing country just like ours, their market is actually pretty sensitive to pricing. The Avanza and its larger sibling the Kijang are king in Indonesia. Nissan have challenged the Avanza with the Grand Livina but Indonesian roads remain filled with primarily Avanzas – the sheer amount of the Toyota Avanza and its Daihatsu-badged cousin Xenia is mind-boggling.

The latest compact MPV to hit the Indonesian market is the Freed. It is not the first time Honda has built an MPV in this segment as it previously also had the Mobilio and Mobilio Spike. But the Freed is the first MPV to be officially sold outside of Japan. It will be built in Indonesia and exported to the region. As a part of a preview prior to the Freed’s launch in Malaysia later this month, Honda Malaysia decided to take a small group of media to Indonesia to visit the PT Honda Prospect Motor plant where the Freed is built.

The Freed is currently the only MPV being built at PT Honda Prospect Motor as the company has stopped making the Stream there. As a result, even our Malaysian market Honda Stream has switched from being a CBU from Indonesia to a CBU from Japan. The Honda assembly plant is located in Karawang, which is just outside Jakarta. Honda Motor Co owns 51% of the company while its Indonesian partner PT Prospect Motor owns the other 49%. The 7 year old plant can produce 40,000 unit of bodies a year on 2 shifts and 160,000 unit of engines a year on 3 shifts. The plant exports cylinder heads and engine blocks as well as some body parts such as engine hoods, roofs, floors, and etc.

The Honda Freed that rolls out of the PT Honda Prospect Motor plant contains at least 40% ASEAN content including body panels and most of the engine, although a lot of the parts also remain Japan-sourced. Thus in the context of the Freed the plant can still probably be considered mostly an assembly plant although it does manufacturer certain parts. But in today’s world with parts coming from all around the world especially from within economic regions, it’s hard to find a plant that builds everything within the country.

The Freed is built with a combination of robots and manual labor. Robots take care of the work that require precision and consistency such as welding the body together and even things like applying sealant around certain parts of the car like the windscreen.

The human assembly workers are used for assembly work that aren’t as repetitious as welding a body and also other assembly work such as fitting the radio into the dashboard. Different specs of the Freed for different countries may use different radios (this is just an example) so these work are done by humans.

The workers also perform final QC work such as running their hands over the body surface to find inconsistencies in metal and other fittings. A Freed that has been completely assembled will go through a series of final QC checks including a water test which ensures all the seals work properly and there will not be any leakages into the car. Although the workers are mostly Indonesian, the system is designed and monitored by Honda engineers. Trust me, with cars being so full of electronics these days, water getting into places where it’s not supposed to go can be a real wallet-breaking affair. It happened to my E39!

The plant also has ‘green’ activities in line with Honda’s global eco stance. Among the programs ongoing at the Karawang plant are the implementation of ISO 14001, CO2 control, air emissions monitoring, and a hazardous waste management program. For example, rejected water from the plant’s RO water process is used to water the garden. The many water conservation systems implemented in the plant have resulted in a water savings of 77% before they were implemented.

Look after the jump for more photos from the plant and stay tuned for a brief impression short test drive report of the Freed coming up next.

[zenphotopress number=999 album=1026]