After Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, we are back in the Americas this weekend, but we’ll go off at sea into the Caribbean islands to visit embargoed Cuba. Yes, I know you were waiting with trepidation to know which cars our Cuban friends are most fond of…
Now if you already know everything about the cars that roam the streets of La Habana, that’s ok, there are 154 other countries to explore in my blog, so go grab a beer and get into it!
The Cuban car market is one of the most emblematic in the world and its structure is a fascinating testimony of the country’s last 60 years history. No official car sales figures are available for Cuba, so this is the result of a thorough cooperation with mi amigo YouTube, watching hours of footage of the streets of Cuba.
The Cuban car history can be divided in 4 very distinct periods:
1. Pre-Revolution: America! America!
Cuba is famous for its 1950′s vintage American cars, 60,000 of which are still in circulation in the country. They are relics of the pre-revolutionary period and the reason why there are still so many around is that only people who bought a car before the 1959 revolution or those who afterward were granted the right to purchase one for personal or political achievements actually own their vehicles.
It is therefore relatively difficult to acquire a new car, so owners tend to stick with their cars for decades, more than 50 years in case of the ‘yank tanks’, the vintage American cars. (Cuban readers please jump in to add any correction or precision to this!)
2. From USSR with love
However these emblematic Pontiacs and Oldsmobile are now outnumbered in Cuban streets by over 100,000 Lada 2105s, the most visible legacy of the country’s Cold War alliance with the Soviet Union. Ladas are virtually everywhere and specially favored by taxi companies.
Another legacy of Cuba’s close alliance with the Eastern Bloc is the strength of the Czech brand Skoda in the country. Many Skoda Fabias can be seen in the streets, as passenger cars, taxis and rental cars.
3. Cuba likes South Korea better
More recently, Hyundai seems to have reaped the title of best-selling brand in Cuba. Hyundais are especially successful with rental car companies that have been booming with the increase in tourism activity in the country. The Hyundai Accent is very likely to be the best-selling car in Cuba at the moment, with the Hyundai i10 and Santro also doing extremely well.
4. Cuba’s Chinese government ties
Lastly in 2009, the Cuban government and police have started replacing their Ladas with Geely CK’s, symbolizing Cuba’s recent closer ties with China, with as much as 1,500 units imported during the first half of 2009.
Here is a link to a very interesting article from Reuters detailing the arrival of Geely in Cuba.
Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.