Taxi Takes Jakarta for a Ride

For a supposedly third-world city, Jakarta has a thing about luxury taxis. You can catch a Mercedes-Benz e-class from Silver Bird, which operates 400 of the black luxury sedans. Or most lately, you could have – for a very brief time – caught a ride in a yellow checkered Ferrari 360 or a Porsche Boxter S.

That kicked off a warning to MM Cab from Jakarta Transportation Agency head Udar Pristono, who said the operator was using an illegal logo and yellow plate, which could only be used by licensed public transportation. Udar immediately banned the cars from the streets for using a commercial license.

It turned out to be a publicity stunt for a movie production company, but it fooled the transportation agency and Jakarta newspapers, who headlined the story and said “Don’t be afraid to flag down that Ferrari zipping down Jakarta’s streets over the next few days — they just might give you a ride, for free. The operator of luxurious Ferrari and Porsche taxis, which launched a sort of ‘soft opening’ in Jakarta on Thursday, will be offering free rides in several locations throughout the capital on Saturday and Monday as part of a promotional campaign.”

The new company, MM Cab, announced through its website that the bright yellow Ferrari 360 and a Porsche Boxster S taxi would be shuttling passengers for free in two shifts around the city’s upscale shopping malls last Saturday Each taxi is bright yellow in color.

“Wait [until] July 18 for complete information,” MM Cab tweeted about its official launch date. ”Don’t be afraid to flag down that Ferrari zipping down Jakarta’s streets over the next few days — they just might give you a ride, for free.”

“Although they said that it was only for shooting purposes, the operation of the Ferrari taxi violated regulations because it used an illegal logo and yellow car plate as the Transportation Agency never issued the permits,” Udar told reporters earlier this week. “They also operated it. That’s why I gave the production house a warning on Saturday.”

But even before the transportation agency had the chance to crack down, MM cab shut itself down. The bright yellow supercars, with traditional cab checkers around their midsections, it turned out, were promoting the movie filming.

“You gotta hand it to the production houses in Indonesia,” said one person who responded to the news story. “Their films may be lousy but their publicity campaigns are right on the money, plus they save loads on free advertising.”

As Asia Sentinel reported in June, another movie company counterfeited the British comic Rowan Atkinson’s character Mr Bean, bringing an unknown British look-alike from London under great fanfare to make a movie about a ghost in love with a dangdut dancer that unfortunately movie-goers said was awful. The production company never did own up to the fact that it wasn’t Atkinson although neither his name nor the look-alike’s appeared in the credits. The movie, Mr Bean Kusurapan DP (Mr. Bean's Obsessed With DP), also starred the dangdut dancer Dewi Persik.

To prevent the “taxi” incident from happening again, the production house has signed an agreement with the transport agency in which the movie maker promised not to operate or show off the taxis in public areas again. The company pulled them from the streets last Saturday night.

It appears to have been the transport department and the public that got taken for a ride rather than the prospective passengers. It might not pay to wait for the movie.