Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: In Cuba, Hyundais Are For The People, Geelys For The Government

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

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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2 of 12 comments
  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 27, 2011

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

  • Roberto Esponja Roberto Esponja on Dec 19, 2014

    "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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  • Matt Posky Hot.
  • Lou_BC Murilee is basically correct on the trim levels. People tend to refer to Ford's full-sized cars as "Galaxie 500" or "Galaxie's" even though that's just the mid level trim. I was never a fan of the '69 snout or any of the subsequent models. The vacuum controlled headlight covers typically failed. It was a heavy clunky system also found on the Mercury's like the Cougar. The XL's and LTD's could be purchased with factory bucket seats and a center console with a large shifter, similar to the type of throttle on an airplane. The late 60's era Ford cars had coil springs in the rear which rode nice. The shape of the fender wells did not lend themselves to fitting larger tires. The frame layout carried on to become the underpinnings of the Panther platform. I noticed that this car came with disc brakes in the front. There was a time when disc's were an upgrade option from drum brakes. Ford's engines of similar displacement are often assumed as being from the same engine families. In '69 the 429 was the biggest engine which was in the same family as the 460 (385 series). It was a true big block. In 1968 and earlier, the 428, 427, 390's typically found in these cars were FE block engines. The 427 side oiler has always been the most desired option.
  • Drew8MR Minivans are expensive new if you are just buying them for utility. Used minivans are often superfund sites in back compared to the typical barely used backseats in a lot of other vehicles and you aren't going to get a deal just because everything is filthy, broken and covered in spilled food and drink.
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