HAVANA TIMES — The word automobile comes to us from classical Greek (auto, meaning “self-propelling”) and from Latin (movere, “to move”). As the word suggests, an automobile is a self-propelling vehicle used to transport people, animals and objects. It was invented in Germany by Karl Benz in 1886.
In 1910, Henry Ford began to manufacture automobiles using assembly lines, a then innovative system that allowed him to reach production figures that had been unthinkable before that time.
Today, we have a broad range of automobiles. There are those used for individual transportation (tourism vehicles, vans and sport cars). Vans, in turn, can be sub-divided into several kinds (all-roaders, people carriers and pick-ups). We also have heavy-load vehicles designed to transport different goods and race cars, used in competitions.
For Cubans, however, these facts –the history of automobiles, their classification and all that jazz – are basically irrelevant. Cubans merely dream of buying a run-of-the-mill car, something they can move in.
Sure, if we could get our hands on a modern car, the ones you see in the movies, that would be marvelous. But, if we could buy just any old car, one that was still working, even the first car Karl Benz invented, that would also be fine.
After all, several generations of Cubans have seen nothing other than vintage American cars and the occasional modern car, rented out in hard currency or owned by a diplomatic corps.
This is why, when the law authorizing Cubans and foreigners residing on the island to purchase new and used cars came into effect last Friday, people stampeded to look for price catalogues and to download the articles dealing with the measure.
The residents of Havana, who have the privilege of being the first to find out about everything, were able to do a little more and set out to pay some State car dealerships a visit early in the morning.
Quite a number of people took photos of the price lists and, bold as brass, set out to leave their comments on every web page (pro-Cuba gov. or not) that was commenting on the situation.
Once again, disappointment grabs hold of the population, and this is but one of the measures already approved by the Council of State and Ministers, and put into effect, that has angered Cubans.
Authorizing Cubans to stay at hotels, cellular phones, laxer migratory laws, less restrictive custom regulations allowing Cubans to bring home appliances bought abroad more easily into the country, the possibility of connecting to the Internet around the country – all of these measures entail prices that are prohibitive for the immense majority.
However, the prices announced by the car dealerships, however, have rubbed salt on the wound. They have been tantamount to telling Cubans to give up on their dreams of ever owning a car.
According to the resolution issued by the Ministry of Finances, retail car prices have been established on the basis of the following criteria:
For new vehicles, eight times market price (the cost of the vehicle plus expenses paid to transport it to the dealership), plus the tax amount.
As a side note: “The sums taken in will be used to create a fund destined primarily to the development of public transportation around the country.”
This is why, in Cuba today, a 2013 508 Peugeot (one of the newest models being offered) is sold at 262,185.00 CUC (over 290,000 USD), a price you will not come across anywhere else in the world. I invite you to comment on this issue and, in the meantime, to continue catching the old 1950s cabs.
To be continued…