The cars that Fabiola’s friends and family drive represent the American Dream—and what the U.S. does and doesn’t offer its residents, especially those who are racial minorities and/or immigrants. First, Chantal’s sedan with leather seats initially symbolizes what’s possible for immigrants in the U.S. To Fabiola, Chantal’s ability to own such a nice, sensible car drives means that it’s possible to make it in the U.S. if one works hard and does well in school. This, she later discovers, is something of a sham: part of Chantal’s financial success comes from drug money, in much the same way that Dray is able to afford a BMW thanks to his own drug-dealing. Chantal and Dray’s cars thus represent the wealth and comfortable lifestyle that a person can attain if they’re willing to compromise their morals to get ahead. Success, in this sense, is possible—but the success, the novel suggests, is tainted and dangerous.
Kasim’s car contrasts with both Chantal’s sedan and Dray’s BMW: it’s an old and constantly broken down. Kasim drives such an unreliable car because he’s saving his money—which he earns working in a café—to buy a house. Yet Kasim never achieves this goal—the police murder him before he has the opportunity to buy his house. Kasim is also never able to upgrade the broken, unreliable car that he purchased to leverage his goals. This speaks to the idea that for all the success and wealth that life in the U.S. supposedly offers, the vast majority of low-income Americans, like Kasim, will never be able to achieve those things.