It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
The most asked question of this year, by almost everybody that walks in to the garage, is "what’s the state of the market Barney"?
Actually, this is a question I have been asked over and over again for the last ten years. After nearly thirty years in this business, it's incredible the change in type of customer I have seen and of course the incredible changes in the value of the cars that I have always loved.
My advice over this 30-year period to my customers has always been the same. "Buy the best, buy it because you love it and buy with a long-term view". I always felt that if this simple strategy was applied to purchasing classic cars, you may well be lucky enough to “have your cake and eat it”.
The fantastic thing about the exceptionally buoyant classic car market we have had over the last decade, is that is has bought a new generation of customer through our doors. Customers in their 30s. Now, these people only know the classic car market of the last decade. That said, some of our older customers have short memories and have forgotten how the classic car market performed historically.
Apart from a blip in the late 80s that was short lived, the classic car market historically has only ever been for the true enthusiast. It was never a place the shrewd investor visited. Cars were an expensive hobby and often tricky to justify. The younger car nut who started driving and buying cars this century is somewhat spoilt. The classic car enthusiast has been able to pat themselves on the back, whilst congratulating themselves on their shrewd purchase.
The immense climb in car values over this period also bought with it the negatives that always cling to a rising market. The greedy, the delusional and even worse, the scallywag.
Over this period, it has frustrated and saddened me to see the appalling level of service that has been provided to the enthusiast. There are a few factors that drove this low level of service. Collectors holding on to assets along with considerably more so-called specialist dealers popping out the woodwork, meant a massive shortage of quality stock for dealers to represent. This then caused desperation and the quality of stock being represented by these so-called specialist dealers deteriorated. However, these cars were still being described as the best.
Well the truth is that over the last 10 years, the best examples were purchased by collectors who did apply the right strategy when buying. They did buy the best, because they loved it and with a long-term view. These collectors that bought well, do not mind the value of the asset they love gently dipping and rising in value during their ownership. They were always in for the long term. They were not in it for greed. They simply hoped that for the first time, they could justify their hobby by showing an above inflationary rise in value over 10, 20 or even 30 years of ownership.
Anyway, back to the market today. Let’s not kid ourselves. It is quieter! Now, I'm a garage owner and certainly no economist, but I do know there are quite a few factors. As far as the economy is concerned, all markets are experiencing very low transaction levels - housing market is a good example. Lots of it is blamed on Brexit but is this really the case? We are seeing shifting business models driven by technology and social changes - high street V on-line shopping, the rise of Airbnb, Uber etc all play their part. The market also needs a period of adjustment if it stands a chance of being sustainable. Today’s buyer needs this period to adjust to today’s new values. It’s not helped when your Dad is telling you “You paid how much? You could have bought one of them for ten grand ten years ago”!
So, in summing up and putting together my 30 years’ experience as a garage owner and my schoolboy economics, I think it's the dawning of a new age. An age of enjoyment for the car nut!