Joerg Kelling, the CEO of Aston Martin Jakarta. (The Peak Photo/Gugun A. Suminarto)

A Thing of Beauty: Jakarta, Meet Aston Martin

JULY 13, 2015

Hearing the name Aston Martin, one will most likely be reminded of scenes out of a James Bond film. Maybe the classic DB5 that made its first appearance in Sean Connery’s “Goldfinger” or, decades later, Daniel Craig zooming through inside a roaring DBS V12 amid an intense car chase scene in “Quantum of Solace.”

But the spy movie franchise is not the only thing that makes this British luxury sports car manufacturer world-famous. Established in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, Aston Martin boasts a wide range of swift cars that embody its tagline “Power, Beauty & Soul” perfectly. 

Notorious for their sinuous lines and, more importantly, powerful engines, these models are manufactured in the United Kingdom — each exclusively tailored to the whims of the brand’s well-heeled clientele.

“Before we officially launched in Indonesia, there were already around 40 cars here that had been imported in the previous years,” observes Joerg Kelling, the CEO of Aston Martin Jakarta, stressing the increasing demand for luxury cars in Indonesia.

Aston Martin’s official presence in the country is relatively new in comparison to other premium automotive brands. They first entered the market in March 2015 and debuted their showroom in Menteng, Central Jakarta, for the public in May. Kelling explains that this is part of the brand’s global expansion strategy under its recently appointed chief executive Andy Palmer. 

“Aston Martin chooses their partners in the individual country very carefully to ensure the sustainability of its business in the future,” says Kelling. “I wouldn’t call [our entry to Indonesia] late. We came at a right time this year.”

Inside the sleek, glass-surrounded showroom that is situated right across Taman Menteng, visitors can check out a slew of car models currently available for Indonesian customers. There is the Vantage series — an entry-level model for people who aim to enter the Aston Martin world for the first time — as well as the iconic grand tourer DB9 model. 

“We also have our flagship model, which is the Vanquish,” says Kelling, adding that the price of this high-performance GT — amplified by its potent V12 engine — can reach up to the area of 600 thousand British pounds. “For very wealthy Indonesian individuals, whatever they buy, they always go to the top. So there is a substantial interest in the Vanquish.”

From conflict zones to gridlock epicenter

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1966, Joerg Kelling attributes his two-decade career in the automotive industry to his life-long enthusiasm toward anything fast. “Like many other boys, I think I shared a passion for everything with wheels and engines,” the self-described petrolhead says.

Kelling once participated in a school exchange program to England when he was a teenager. In perhaps a serendipitous moment, the father of the British family he lived with at the time happened to be the sales director of Aston Martin. “That’s how I first got in touch with Aston Martin at the age of 16,” he recounts.

Right after university and military services, he started working for Mercedes-Benz. “It was around the time when Germany was reunited, so I spent more than a year in Eastern Germany building up dealership for Mercedes,” he says.

He subsequently joined the BMW group in mid-1990s at its subsidiary in his hometown, and later became the regional manager for BMW in the Middle East, overseeing its operations in places like Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and India.

It was not until 2007 that Kelling moved to Indonesia as the president director of BMW Indonesia, a position he held for almost three years. Afterward, he was appointed as a general manager at BMW Syria up until the civil war started in the country.

“I resigned from BMW in 2012, went back to Indonesia and opened a company here, which I still have,” Kelling says, referring to Carglass, a global vehicle glass repair and replacement company

Appointed as the CEO of Aston Martin Jakarta and McLaren Jakarta in February 2015, Kelling now oversees the whole operations of both automotive brands in Indonesia, from retail and manufacturers to customer service.

Specifically looking at Aston Martin customers in Indonesia, Kelling thinks that they are similar to other clientele in any part of the globe. “These are individuals who want a car that can represent their lifestyle,” he says. “Aston Martin is very niche — it’s about super-luxury sports cars. No other brands have this offering, really.”

Kelling says that the infamous traffic of Jakarta has little to no impact toward luxury car sales in the city. On the contrary, many of these brands have been experiencing substantial growth. 

“You don’t see our product normally in everyday traffic because people have a tendency to drive them at night or outside Jakarta — in Sentul or Bogor. They drive and enjoy these cars outside normal traffic jam hours,” he notes. “But the good thing is, even when you’re stuck in traffic, it’s nicer to be in a great car than a normal one.”

A four-door sedan model named Rapide, for instance, has a strong demand among Indonesian customers, male and female alike.

“Customers here normally have a chauffeur, so throughout the week, you can sit in the back and enjoy being driven,” Kelling explains. “And if you feel like experiencing the power, beauty and soul of the car, you can drive it yourself in the weekend.”

Unparalleled services

Kelling considers the Aston Martin showroom in Menteng as a reflection of the luxurious lifestyle projected by the British brand. “We are in the best location in Jakarta, and we have used the best materials available,” he says inside the customer lounge, where customers can take a look at car interior leather and stitching samples in various colors. 

“This is part of the strategy — not only to have the customers in touch with the cars, but also give them a brand experience,” mentions Kelling. “We also get the people who are interested in the brand behind the steering wheel. Nothing is more convincing than driving the cars.”

In addition to their showroom, Aston Martin Jakarta also maintains a standalone services facility in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta.“You don’t buy the car only; you buy everything that comes with the car,” says Kelling, emphasizing that Aston Martin customers would be provided with top-notch after-sales services from trained technicians that are on par with the brand’s global standards.

In his pursuit to introduce Aston Martin in Indonesia, Kelling has spearheaded various programs, including a collaboration with the car-hailing mobile app Uber. In the UberSupercar program last May, the app user could experience being driven in an Aston Martin car around SCBD and Kuningan area for 15 minutes. 

Unlike other car manufacturers, Aston Martin’s current global strategy is to produce one car less than the market demand. “It is the strategy of this company to keep it very boutique, very niche and very special,” notes Kelling

This partially explains his drive to establish the brand correctly first in Indonesia and not step on the gas pedal from the get-go. 

“People here have to understand Aston Martin. Why is it the preferred car of James Bond? Why do I want to buy or desire an Aston Martin?” Kelling says. “That’s big part of my job: to get this right in the market, to communicate the brand properly and to give the customers here the true Aston Martin experience.”