In subsequent correspondence with Tire Business explaining his testimony, Mr. Littlefield said TIA's contacts familiar with Cuba “seemed to provide very different numbers in terms of where tires are being imported from and how many. Therefore, in our verbal testimony we cautiously used only some statistics.
“It was hard for us to get a grasp on what the market looks like, but from what we could gather, it appears that there are no tire stores (in the country). Tires are simply bought at a hardware, general store or gas station.
“We have reason to believe that there is also some retreading taking place in the country, as some reported to us that there are between five and nine retread plants.”
Mr. Littlefield also said the association “discovered that there is still an overwhelming number of older vehicles — '50s-era taxis and Soviet trucks. There are about 650,000 total vehicles and at least half are owned by the government (Cuba's population is 11 million).”
He noted that the roads in Cuba are in poor condition and this has led to the “breakdown of many Chinese charter buses that the country ordered a few years ago. There also seems to be a consensus that the Chinese tire companies have already entered the market in high numbers, yet many other countries are reporting tire sales to Cuba.”
TIA primarily shared how a tire market could be structured in Cuba “and the opportunities American tire companies, dealers and distributors would have to offer high end product to the Cuban market,” Mr. Littlefield continued in his email to Tire Business.
“It seemed from the testimony of those representing other industries that many American products are already entering Cuba from other South American countries (that are) re-selling them.”
Mr. Littlefield added that, of the many witnesses who spoke at the hearing, “there seemed to be a consensus that the embargo should be lifted and American businesses should be given the opportunity to compete in Cuba.
“Although not a big market, there seems to be some opportunity if trade with Cuba became available.”