|A Geely CK police car in Havana.|
THAT FIGURE of 60,000 old American cars in Cuba has again come under question, but this time from a more credible direction. In a recent report from the island, Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager suggests the number might actually fall between 20,000 and 50,000.
Creager cites only "auto watchers" as her authority on this. Elsewhere in her readable and even-handed article, however, she relies on Rick Shnitzler of the Taillight Diplomacy group and John McElroy of Autoline Detroit, a weekly television show, for insight into Cuba's automotive scene.
And for the real nuts and bolts she speaks to Cuban car owners like Obel Aguado of Vinales, who employs a two-litre bottle as makeshift gas tank for his restoration-in-progress 1955 Dodge. You can see a photo of it in a 47-image slide show that accompanies the article.
Creager, of course, wouldn't be a Detroiter if she didn't comment on the lost opportunity for American automakers barred from selling cars to Cuba by the long-standing U.S. trade embargo.
"While U.S. automakers sit on the sidelines, Chinese automakers are making inroads into the nation of 11 million," she writes, noting that Geely alone has exported more than 5,000 vehicles to Cuba since 2008.