COVID-19 and the Collector Car Market (Update)


Four months ago I opined on the topic of Covid and where this might all go with regard to the collector car market, here’s the first follow up which in many ways is rather a rewarding, satisfying and explosive gumbo of facts and observations. Grab your spoon.

I did not set out to be as controversial or as caustic as this turned out but I’m only as good as my own personal observations and options. I really wanted to venture down a different back alley today and be more kind and cuddly…ya sure, bon chance with that.

First topic, survival instincts and actions by amateur inmates disguising as nice guys . Really people, you’re not in jail or penitentiary, you’re home with your families. Stop honing your business shanking skills and take up something more productive. Sorry about this lack of travel but it’s no excuse for your decorum.

This intrepid scribe cannot sum up succinctly the behavior my colleagues and I have witnessed first hand over the last one hundred and twenty days without sounding almost entirely cynical about retail consumers but my “behaving badly metrometer” has to be recalibrated weekly. A book will be written or a podcast spoken about how this has manifested into our daily lexicon, and remember folks, when we name names, there is no defense against the truth. 

And speaking of podcasts, zoom-casts and every other form of “getting your view” out there, I dare say the space may be over saturated a tiny bit now. Who knew so many people had the exact same dullness to say. This is like having 100 QVCs selling the same knockoff handbag. My French bulldog Louis just scored a ring light and microphone so he could be the first canine to enter the fray. He figured he’d be first dog-speak to interview Gordon Murray. Did you know he has officially launched the T50? But I digress…..

I had no idea how absolutely duplicitous and nefarious some folks could truly be. Maybe just maybe this is the byproduct of having certain liberties and freedoms taken away or put on hold. Could this be the reason that previously perfectly fine acting gentleman have gone rogue in business behavior? The pause/reset button of life has forced most everyone to stay within the confines of their family and that does not allow you the privilege of behaving with wanton reckless abandon covered in nonsense.

By no means is everyone acting like Pinocchio but there’s an opportunity for and shortage of Geppettos at the moment.

Foolishly I thought that avoiding unnecessary contact with various media outlets would feed me less incredulity on the daily bizarro, nope, all I have to do is answer the phone.

There is no need to rant about the shortcomings of mankind from this amateur market Nostradamus for another 500 words so let’s attack the markets.

The so-called opportunists who tried to come out from under their rocks 120 days ago (no surprise)  have been stiff-armed and turned away at the backstage entrance  because few sellers wanted to act out that play. You know the actors. Any of these phrases sound familiar?  “I’ll pay with cash.” Or my personal favorite “the markets are going down and the seller should take my money”….

Hey Einstein, few people who own multi-million dollar car collections are beholden to Tesla or Facebook futures. The collector car world has seemingly shaken off the barrage of shrapnel that unsettling world events have thrown at it and it has instead mixed another long cocktail and not buckled under. This may sound callous but it just proves that there is a suit of serious armor-plated Kevlar protecting the 1% who give a give a toss about this car passion. Actually it’s probably much less than 1% of our populous.

Societal shifts, uprisings and full on changes of how we do everything from ordering coffee, go to school/university and most importantly earn a living to provide for family have utterly prevented car lovers from being derailed from their passion. I can easily assume that this outlet, this mental salve if you will, is a little solution in keeping us all from going completely bonkers. This is our nirvana and it’s manifesting into a true temporary vaccine to grab a few moments of joy everyday.

Every event except Hampton Court, the Mille Miglia and Luftekuhlt has been cancelled. No problem. Flash mob Cars and Coffee, local club runs, virtual concours and collectors now with the liberty of time are exercising all of their treasures. Not a bad way to grab a few minutes of pleasure and to socialize safely.

This survival instinct has fueled the car markets, not all, but quality car offerings.

I think it’s telling now that Gooding and Company has rescheduled their spectacular Passion of a Lifetime sale for September, quality will set serious records here. David Gooding should rightfully feel bullish about this sale. Interesting timing as he’s in the middle of their Monterey auction.

Let’s recap the last 120 days of actual commerce in our sales forums in case you missed it.
Bring a Trailer has become part of the Hearst empire, no small coincidence (I can thank BaT for two cars added to my collection in that time, my Covid Collection) with their popularity rising meteorically while folks are shut in. 180,000 users? Wow.

Dana Mecum had some eye watering results from his Indianapolis sale, the crews at RM, Bonhams and a handful of smaller auction companies have soldiered on and had decent sell-through percentages without having many really halo offerings. Bravo to these companies for adapting and not throwing in any towels.
If the paradigm does shift to a more virtual auction forum, will the powers in charge adjust their buyer/seller fees? A topic for another time.

Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll see how the big 3 auction companies fair in the virtual world versus the universe within the rowdy action of Monterey Car Week? I personally think it’s going to be a tiny bit of a rough ride with percentages sold at 60 and with low estimates being the name of the game….or slightly lower than low estimates.

Lastly, I can give feedback from the retail markets that include the USA and Europe. The broad stroke is that nothing has really changed and 2020 has acted like 2019.

This week the sale of a very special Ferrari Testarossa hit the media. You may have heard Gordon Murray has almost sold out of his new mega T50 hyper car (again and again and again). Most exotic new car manufacturers sales have rebounded and dealer stock is thinning and, in general, dealers, brokers and private individuals are all plowing forward. If Rolls Royce CAN sell the Cullinane right now, there’s a lesson there.

Think about it, broad groups of business sectors whether they are food & beverage, entertainment, professional sports and travel have been crippled, some forever. Your favorite bar, restaurant, hotel or airline may be part of history now. Lost forever.

Within that cataclysmic and toxic world environment, car people have become some of the survivors, the cockroaches after the nuclear pandemic.

Let’s have at this again in another 120 days.

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