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25th March 1924, Page 13
25th March 1924
Page 13
Page 14
Page 13, 25th March 1924 — CUBA AS A LORRY MARKET.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

How British Manufacturers Can Get a Footing in a Country Full of Possibilities, and What Must be Done to Cultivate Trade.

CCUBA IS one of those that will, in the near future, become almost entirely dependent upon mechanical road transport for t s internal development. Although it has a length of 750 miles, no part of it is 50 miles from the sea, and, singularly enough, the most inland point lies on the Cauto, the only nawigable river of any consequence in

the island. It is true that the iron spine at present running from east to west will always be of value economically, but otherwise Cuba has little need of railways. It can claim that it possesses more deep-water harbours than any other country in the western hemisphere, a n d every part of the island can readily be reached by motor lorries operating from any of the ports. Cuba is, at present, one of the most prosperous corners of the globe. This prosperity has been built up on a highly developed sugar industry, which progressed' very considerably when the sugar-beet fields of Europe were the fighting-grounds of tho Great War. Practical possession, as well as proximity to the United States, has made the &iintry a happy hunting-ground for American motor manufacturers.

Cuba, however, cannot be regarded as a hopeless field which the British manufacturer can consequently iimore and particularly must this be said of that section of the island which lies eastward of Puerto Principe. This important part of Cuba is less Americanized than, those parts more contiguous to Havana, and there is reason-to believe that if a commercial offensive were launched from Jamaica, which is only 85 miles away, a certain volume of business would be obtained.

At present there are about 30,000 motor vehicles in Cuba, and only the absence of good roads militates against this total being multiplied tenfold. • It is somewhat singular that roads have been so badly neglected in this busy island, but, although a Good Roads Association has been formed and,lotteries raised in order to promote road .Ifinds, little real progress has been made in this direction. The Government, however, is working towards the establishing of inter-connecting roads, and in a short while the 2,100 kiIoms, of motor roads now in existence should be considerably supplemented.

Asphalt is found in several parts of Cuba, and road-construction material abounds almost throughout the island_ The national dream is to built a great central road extending throughout the entire length of the island, but at present tWs only extends from Pinar del Rio through Havana to Matanzas. Desnitory roadwork is now going on towards Santa Clara, whilst an annual allotment of 1,200,000 dollars has been voted to carry this hialway so far as Santiago. The completion of the east-west. trunk road will no doubt prove an economic boon to the island, but it would probably be more bene ficial if shorter roads were constructed inland so that products could becarried to and from the ports.

Cuba imported 915 -lorries from tips United States in 1919, 1,953. in -1920, 283 in 1921, 290 in 1922 and 569

during the first ten months of 1923. The increased sales last year seem to indicate that. the 500 unsold lorries in stock at the beginning of 1923 have been absorbed in commercial service. A census taken at the end of 1922 showed that there were 2,093 lorries ancl ZO trailers operat ing in the island. Owing to the bad road conditions, most of the vehicles in use are small mOdels, and future demands will probably be for similar types. The motor lorry is rapidly replacing the bullock-cart in the transportation field, and it is found that a 2-ton vehicle can easily do the ivbrk of three bullock-carts.

Vehicles of this type are wanted tn the eastern part of the island to trans port the sugar-cane and bananas of Banes and Antilia; the cocoanuts, coffee and cocoa of Baracoa; the tobacco, copper and manganese of Bayarno ; the sugar end beans of Gibara ; the molasses and timber of Guanatanamo ; the man ganese and gold of Holguin ; the

mahogany, cedlar wood and hides of Manzanillo ; and the fruits and _iron of

Renault lorries are able to find.,,buyers Renault lorries are able to find buyers in the island proves that the _American vehicle cannot claim an entire monopoly. of the market, Nevertheless, there is the activity of the Ford plant at Havana to combat, and last year this concern disposed of 654 lorries and 348 tractors in the island.. The Ford interests at this centre carry

on an extensive education campaign locally. As a result, Ford light lorries are gradually replacing bullock teams, and Fordson tractors are being increasingly used for cutting and loading plantation crops. The bodybuilding industry of the island is assuming considerable propoqions.

Taxicabs are largely used in Cuba, and they are very popular. Havana hag been described as a "city of taxicabs," and here alone over. 6,00D of,these vehicles ply for hire. In the eastern towns, also, • taxicabs are put to conniderable use, and there; is a distinct opening for vehicles of this type in Santiago, Manzanillo and other towns.

There is a distinct opportunity,. too, • for the introduction of motorbuseS in eastern Cuba. It is true that Santiago and Antilla are connected by railway, apart from the central line running towards Havana, but railway' fares are very high, as much' as 4d. per mile being charged over distances of less than 60 miles. When the state of the roads permits, motorbus services will no doubt be established between Manzanillo and Bayarno. Santiago and Guanatanamo and on to Baracoa, and from AntiLla to Puerto Padre by way of „ Holguin. Routes will also be established ,between the central railway and the coast towns.

Cuba can boast of a great variety of scenery, and it is certain that scenic tours by motor coach will ultimately

provide an opportunity for the introducthm of vehicles of this type. The general import tariff is 34 per .cent. ad 4valorem, vehicles .from the United States • being granted a reduction of

20 per cent, of this duty: •

Cana imparted 4,.3 tractors from the United States in 1919, 390 in 1920, 32 in 1921, 84 in 1922 add 338 during.the first nine mouths of 1923. Adding the total disposed of by the Ford plant at Havana, it is fairly safe to say that -about 2,500 tractors are now in operation throughout Cuba. These machines are particularly popular for work on the sugar plantations, but, they are also being increasingly used in connection with other agricultural activities of the island.

British makers Should remember that both a close study of this market and personal contact with distributors are necessaryin ander to cultivate trade. New vehicles will rapidly lose their reputation if the first few customers are

at all dissatisfied. Agents, therefore, must be enforced to maintain efficient service and repair facilitins. Exhibition vehicles must also be maintained and credit granted in the necessary direction.

Vehicles are often sold under the de:. ferred-payment system, and it is not advisable to press for early settlement. it is well to remember that the best period for sales, in the Cuban market is in the months of November and December, when the wealthy Cubans return to their plantations to superintend sugar' cutting operations. Catalogues must be geed productions, printed • in Spanish, give c.i.f, quotations in United States currency, and all figures should be given in the metric system. Santiago is a town with fip,ocopeople, and the centre of a populous district of BOO,OW inhabitants. It is a long way from Havana by rail; and takes five days by boat, whereas the 85.z4les from Jamaica can be traversed iina few .hours, -Vessels ply, from_ Kingston practically daily. It is obvious, therefore, that the point of economic attack at, which British manufacturers should aim is the eastern end of the island, and it is certain that, if British 'makerswere to concentrate on that part of Cuba lying eastward of Puerto Principe, they would, other things being equal, he quite capable of competing with American representatives based at Havana Active prospecting in Cuba has had practically negative results 80 far as the discovery of oil is concerned. The resultant high cost of petrol has, accordingly, limited the use and development of motor vehicles in the island ; the cost per American gallon of petrol in remote districts is as high as 3s. per gallon.

Cuba, however, has a raw material to hand that more than compensates for tins lack of mineral oil. Illimitable quantities of power alcohol can be obtained from locally grown molasses, and 6,50D,000 gallons of this fuel are manufactured annually. Known as Espiritu Motor, this fuel is used by motor vehicles with excellent results, and is readily obtainable almost everywhere at ' a reasonable cost.

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