Cubans Can Now Buy and Sell Post-Revolution Cars

October 6th, 2011

Cuban cars

We’ve all seen the photos of crumbling buildings, bad streets and 1950s cars that have been made, somehow, to survive.

Like all these old cars, the economy in Cuba has been crumbling and disintegrating over the years, yet manages to hang on. Now, as of October 1, a new law permits buying and selling of post-1959 cars by the general public, which likely encourage many of the owners of pre-1959 cars to trade them in on newer ones. There are also agricultural and small business reforms.

The owners of old cars may or may not benefit in terms of resales. But the economy surely will—and it’s about time.

This move finally opens a market closed for 50 years to U.S. auto companies and parts suppliers (to repair the old cars). It permits trading of the old cars, some of which are classics, some of which will come to the U.S. We’ll show you a few more pix after the break.

Cadillac in CubaOther countries haven’t been as shortsighted as we have regarding Cuban trade policies. China has supplied thousands of buses, police cars and rental cars (over 5,000 cars to Cuba since 2008). Kias, Hyundais and Volkswagens are also there, most belonging to the government.

Pontiac in CubaThough the new law will indeed change things, “there still will be no private car dealerships. The government still will control supply. Most Cubans could not afford a new car.”

Eventually, the American companies will get there. Until then, the old classics will stagger along, but I think many will be brought to the U.S. and preserved.

“The automotive history community should realize that Cuba’s achievement with that fleet is one of the most important achievements in automotive history,” said Rick Shnitzler, co-founder of TailLight Diplomacy, a Philadelphia group that monitors the state of classic autos in Cuba.

There are perhaps 20,000-50,000 of these old 1950s cars in Cuba, including lots of ‘50s Chevrolets. The new law seems to permit their “re-exporting,” so you can bet U.S. classic car lovers will take note, though most are in sad condition (the vehicles, not the collectors).

Would it be a good promotional idea for Chevrolet, say, to give Cubans a special deal and pipeline to supply parts for those old cars they’ve kept alive so long?

—jgoods

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  1. | #1

    Doesn’t this kind of go against the “Cash for Klunkers” here in the United States…. Bringing all of these old junk cars to the US is wrong.

  2. | #2

    Some of those old ones are worth preserving if for no other reason that their history of surviving that place. The “Cash for Klunkers” was one of the worst government pushed automotive ideas to come down the road in many decades.

  3. | #3

    Its not like theres a shortage of old classic cars in the US that you have to steal Cubas iconic cars just sell the Cubans some parts so they can keep them running instead of embargoing them.

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