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Felder delivers his 1st electric scooter to CUBA

Regional 22 Nov, 2022 Follow News

John Felder with his first Cuban electric scooter buyer

Scooters are now very popular in Cuba

Former Cayman resident John Felder is so excited he can barely sleep. That’s because the 78-year-old electric vehicle salesman has just received a historic license from the American government to sell his motors to Cuban nationals.

Felder attended the FIHAV Expo in Havana this week and on Thursday night the fantastic news arrived. The Biden Administration gave him an early Christmas present by approving the export license that will for the first time allow Cuban nationals to purchase an electric vehicle from a United States manufacturer.

Anything from scooters up to Teslas with a price range from $2.5k to $110k.  The Cuban government has given him an objective of selling 500 cars in 2023, ranging in price from $35k to $45k. Those prices are, of course, totally unaffordable for the average Cuban but Felder points out that there are many wealthy Cubans in America who send money home to not just help family and friends but whole communities too. The fact that Cuba has in recent years eased restrictions on free enterprise, also helps.

“There’s lots of money in Cuba and it’s all coming from the United States,” he said. “Western Union alone sent $1 billion in remittances in 2021.” Previously, Cubans relied on electric vehicles from Panama but Felder not just undercuts them but delivers faster too, 2-3 weeks by air rather than 2-3 months by sea.

 “I am on top of the world,” Felder said. “Everybody wants a Tesla there now. I am the only company in the USA that has received this kind of historic approval.

“I will also be providing Bidirectional Charging Stations for the first time in the Caribbean in Cuba that will enable the Nissan Leaf to also become a power generator for the home, office or the grid. My ultimate goal is to have the 124 embassies now in Cuba purchase electric vehicles along with the Bidirectional Charging Stations which could power thousands of homes or offices during a blackout and not cost the Cuban Government one cent. Blackouts cause much misery for the Cuban people and it is my desire to change this scenario.”

Virgen Ricardo Disotua, a young Cuban, took a bus from rural Holguin, travelling 12 hours with her mother to take delivery this week of the first American electric scooter sold to a Cuban national, from Felder’s company Premier Automotive Export. It was paid for by Virgen’s fiancé in Canada. 

“Mission accomplished,” Felder said. “My goal and why I am supported by the Cuban and American government is because I’m trying to make life better for the Cuban people who have been suffering for over 60 years. To show them compassion. They really need it.

“I don’t get involved in the politics,” he added despite having to negotiate with the previous administrations of Donald Trump and Barack Obama as well.

So when does this serial entrepreneur intend to put his feet up and enjoy family life which includes 11 grandchildren? “I have a succession plan in place. I have a person walking in my shoes who will take over when the time is right.”

Felder is an American who lived in Grand Cayman for 14 years until 2019. He first visited Cayman on vacation, loved it and soon after started doing business here which lead to him living here and even considering taking out Caymanian citizenship. The main reason he returned to Maryland was because his new-born grandson, Zion, was born with a severe health problem which eventually took his life almost two years later. Throughout his time in Cayman, Judy, John’s loyal wife of 43 years remained in Columbia, Maryland. No wonder he made sure he returned home from Cuba by Friday to celebrate her birthday. 

Felder retired from working at Chrysler in Maryland in 2001 then started selling only gas powered vehicles in the Caribbean. “I realised that the Caribbean was perfect for the electric vehicle market so I moved into that business.” Soon after he discovered the allure of the Cayman Islands and settled here.

In 2009 he sold his first electric car in the Cayman Islands, a Gem, to Dart and delivered his first Tesla three years later. Seven years ago Felder received a licence from the US to sell electric vehicles to Cuba – but only to staff at the embassies based there. After many attempts and processes, he finally received the license to sell them to all 11 million Cuban nationals.

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