Classic car trade adjust to 'new normal' – News

► Auction houses seeing more bidders in 2020 than in 2019
► Dealers re-opening, but still using online services to drive trade
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SWVA auctions – old style…

SWVA auctions – old style…

Classic auctions are still seeing much higher numbers of online bidders than in previous years, which is helping older cars to sell and – where they have the right condition and history – for stronger prices.

Online auction specialist, which facilitates online-only bidding, said that through the lockdown bids for the six classic auctioneers it supports were three times higher as other categories it works with, such as art and antiques.

Richard Lewis, chief operating officer of Auction Technology Group, (ATG) which runs the site, said: ‘There was a sense that rather than stifling demand, the lockdown was actually lifting it. That forecast turned out to be spot on, and auction houses that have held classic car auctions entirely online in the last few months have seen some bullish bidding activity.’

The view from the auction houses

North Yorkshire auctioneer Mathewsons had 1245 bidders using ATG’s services for its 6 June sale – three times what it would normally expect at this time of year – and that the double the usual number of online bidders for Charterhouse’s 30 May sale.

South Western Vehicle Auctions (pictured above, pre-Covid) has also seen strong success in its first sale since the lockdown, managing to repeat its trend of sale rates higher than 90% despite not having a single bidder on site.

Chris Holmes, chief executive, said: ‘The sale was strong right across the board, and this seems to be the new normal. It worked beautifully, with 98 out of 99 cars selling, but with the usual enthusiasm now being carried out via the internet.’

And the classic car dealer’s view?

Dealers are still seeing brisk business through using websites to promote classics too, although with showrooms now increasingly reopening, it’s now being used to encourage potential buyers to view cars in person too.

Classic dealer Robin Lawton said: ‘Our new ways of marketing were being actively more social, driving engagement and conversations. We’ve always provided videos of or cars – just my wife and an iPhone.

‘Now we are able to open up in the new safe Covid world we have had many viewings. People have found our videos very helpful and have travelled from far and wide to see us. However, of course Europeans cannot travel to us and there is frustration from those people because they want to view cars.’

Market comment

Richard Barnett, Classic Car Weekly’s markets editor, however, reckons that the growth in online bidding during the pandemic was inevitable, due to the more traditional option of bidding in person being cut off during the lockdown.

He said: ‘Call me cynical but it’s hardly surprising there was an upswing in online bidding or more auctioneers going this route – after all, punters couldn’t attend a sale. However, it’s reassuring to see more auctioneers taking on bidding platforms because, after all, it’s a service industry and the ever-increasing demands of the customer have to be accommodated.’

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