Vintage American car in Cuba. Picture by Walter Lo Cascio. All rights reserved.
The Cuban car market structure is a fascinating testimony of the country’s last 60 years history. Its famous 1950′s American cars (60,000 are still in circulation), relics of the pre-revolutionary period, are now outnumbered by over 100,000 Ladas, the most visible legacy of the country’s Cold War alliance with the Soviet Union.
Lada in Cuba. Picture by Tom Eversley. All rights reserved.
More recently, Hyundai seems to have reaped the title of best-selling brand in Cuba, with the Hyundai Accent the probable Cuban best-seller, and the i10 and Santro also doing very well, especially with rental car companies
Lastly in 2009, 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 in H1 ’09.
More commentaries, striking street scene pictures and informative street videos are below, click on ‘read more’ just below the Geely CK picture.
The reason why so much history can be seen in Cuban streets is that it is very 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. A government minister must give approval for someone to buy a car legally, and in most cases even when it is purchased, it still belongs to the state. 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.
Here is a link to a very interesting article from Reuters detailing the arrival of Geely in Cuba.
Here are a couple of videos of the streets of La Habana that help visualise the structure of the Cuban car market:
Street Scenes in La Habana, Cuba 2010. Source: www.flickr.com