Changes in Cuban law mean inexpensive cars are changing hands for ludicrous prices.
If you think the UK is an expensive place to purchase a new ride, thank your lucky stars you don’t live in Cuba. Foreign-made cars have gone on sale in the country for the first time since 1959 and the government has set a massive mark-up on everything, with prices so high they defy logic.
The state monopoly on car sales means even the lowliest runaround will set you back mega bucks. A Peugeot 508 saloon, for instance, that costs from £17,695 in the UK can be yours for a mere US$262,000 (£160,000). Considering the average monthly wage is US$20, it would take the average Cuban 1,092 years to save up for one.
Other ‘bargains’ spotted include a Hyundai Santa Fe for £55,000, Citroen C3 for £28,150 and £42,200 for a Suzuki Jimny. Yes, the pint-sized Japanese 4×4 is more than 300 per cent more expensive than it is in old Blighty.
The reason for the insane pricing, the government has explained, is to help develop a public transport system. Critics argue the logic is deeply flawed.
“At these prices, how many people can buy the cars? So where’s the money to invest in public transport if no-one can buy them?” one Cuban resident told the BBC.
Another resident commented: “We’re speechless, it’s a big surprise. I don’t know what the government’s strategy is. Maybe this is just a test phase. But the prices are excessive.”
Reports say cars were being sold for high prices, albeit in small numbers. The BBC reported one used car dealer had shifted six cars – the most expensive of which went for US$50,000 – by 14:00 on the day the law changed.
Only cars built before 1959 could be sold in Cuba until new regulations were brought in by Raul Castro, hence why Cuba is often said to be a graveyard for aging American vehicles. In 2011 the law was changed to allow newer models to be sold with government say-so. Now the requirement for permission is no longer needed.
While the law reform is unlikely to have much of an impact on the island at this point in time, one thing is certain: The country that was effectively frozen in time by communism is showing signs of thawing.