By on June 4, 2011

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.

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12 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: In Cuba, Hyundais Are For The People, Geelys For The Government...”

  • avatar

    There is absolutely no good goddamned reason at all that we should still have a trade Embargo with Cuba. Yet, Americans are so stupid, they’d rather discuss Weinergate or Obama messing up a toast to the queen then challenge the $1.5 trillion dollar wars that haven’t ended, the 50,000 American factories that have closed or the fact more Americans than ever are on food stamps.

    • 0 avatar

      Embargoes are stupid. They just hurt the people while the rulers continue to sip fine wine.

    • 0 avatar

      Bigtruck I’m assuming that you are American. Do you include yourself in that number? Have 50,000 factories closed? Could you cite your source for this please? You are right about food stamps. More people than ever use them now. Would you like for me to go into the reasons for this?

      And the wars, expensive, yep. So why have we added another one to the mix? Why was the latest one started without Congressional approval? Care to share how you feel about that?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      That reason is called… “Cuban-American Voter’s in Florida and their supporters + morons dumb enough to think that embargos work.”

      BTW I just want it not to be a crime for me to go into a U.S. tobacco shop and buy Cuban grown and made cigars.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s called “distraction activity”: where you make a big deal about little things in order to avoid dealing with the big things.

      General Motors was famous for this kind of thing, and it’s hugely common in larger organizations where accountability is highly distributed.

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    that Soviet car in the photo with 4 headlights is a 2106. 2105 has volvo240-like square lights. but in the video there were many 2101 or 2111 models.

  • avatar

    Hi Matt, we have posted this old Cuban iron before-with part 2 coming soon…

  • avatar

    It’s a mixed bag of mostly 50s Detroit, but I will refrain from listing them on TTAC. They have been kind enough to allow me to post and I appreciate that gesture.

  • avatar

    Watched a movie on Netflix called “YankTanks”. Very entertaining. Jeremy Clarkson did an episode of “Motorworld” on Cuba. ALSO very interesting.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    “There is absolutely no good goddamned reason at all that we should still have a trade Embargo with Cuba.”

    Gee, only the fact that EVERYTHING that was of US property in Cuba got nationalized by the same guys’ regime that Obama has now given a new lease on life. And they, in return, have not had to concede a SINGLE thing. Nothing.

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