NewsVoice for Veterans

Actions

Maryland veteran making history with Cuba

Veteran Historical License
Posted at 4:46 PM, Jul 24, 2023

COLUMBIA, Md. — A Columbia veteran is making history as he received a license to export cars to a country that has been embargoed by the U.S. for over 60 years.

When John Felder looks back 10 years ago, he had no idea that he'd be making history for the U.S.

The CEO of Premier Automotive Export has an agreement to export USA manufactured electric cars and scooters to Cuba.

This is something that hasn't been done since the embargo that was imposed by the U.S. in 1961.

"We have the customer lined up to be the very first to accept delivery,” said Felder.

Felder is a disabled U.S. Air Force Veteran that started his service in 1966.

"My specialty was air traffic control. I got to spend one year in Vietnam then I ended that service career in 1969,” said Felder.

After Vietnam, Felder went to college for a few years, where he decided he wanted to take a different path.

"So I went to work for a short time, moved around a lot and then eventually ended up with Chrysler corporation,” said Felder.

He retired from Chrysler but he wasn't quite ready to hang up his hat. That's when he started exporting cars to the Caribbean, which led him to the idea of tapping into an untouched territory.

“If you think about it, Cuba has the most vintage U.S. made vehicles in the world, more than we have in the United States. Cuba also has the most polluted air in the world because these vehicles,” said Felder.

With no catalytic converters, Felder says he wanted to provide Cuba with a cleaner option when it comes to cars.

"The first electric vehicle delivered to Cuba in 2015 and it was delivered to the Guyana Embassy and they are very happy because the vehicle is still running great,” said Felder. 

He ultimately wanted to provide the residents with this option. It took 10 years of negotiations with the Cuban and the U.S. governments but he finally received his export license for Cuba.

"Obviously navigating that was difficult but I never got a red light, I always got a yellow light because my intent was to help the Cuban people,” said Felder.

His historical journey even caught the attention of some film makers in North Carolina who made a documentary of the businessman and advocate for a healthier environment.

"We want people to be inspired by it, ask themselves what is my solution, what have I been created to do and so we're just proud to tell the story of a man who went after what was in his heart,” said Pam McNeil, one of the CEO’s of Brighter Path Productions.

Each car ordered will come with a charging station set up at the person's house, with the first delivery happening later this year. He has big goals when it comes to providing the country with such advancements.

"I expect to get orders from 11.5 million people, that's my goal,” said Felder.

The premier of the documentary “Driving Towards Change” will take place in Columbia at the Merriweather Lakehouse Hotel on August 26.

To purchase tickets, click here.