If 2016 was a year for surprises, the 2017 car market has certainly been a year for calmness and level-heads. This is not to say that the market has disappeared, or we are about to witness any form of crash that the naysayers have long been predicting. Far from it in fact.
What was a turbulent and often unpredictable market in ‘16 turned and saw a steadiness that was long overdue. A lot of marques that had started to show peaks and troughs previously now started to level out and gave us a better understanding of where values should be. The enthusiast buyer also returned to the 2017 car market, rather than just investors looking for a quick buck.
High-profile sales saw significant cars return to the block and make headline grabbing news (I’m thinking of the $22m that the 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 achieved this year) and specialist dealers also saw good growth thanks to those long-term customers and collectors coming back through the doors rather than heading straight to auction. The level of publicity that Tom Hartley Jnr received by landing the year’s top find of the delivery mileage McLaren F1 must be worth more than his total annual marketing budget for the next 5 years alone.
Along with this, manufacturers themselves helped the market by launching significant models that traded on their heritage and raised the profiles of their own back catalogues. Cars such as the Porsche 911R & T models, Ferrari with their new 812 Superfast and Aston Martin, who barely seemed to be out of the motoring press this year, with not only new cars, but the introduction of their DB4 GT Continuation Cars. Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Bugatti, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren also made themselves known to the world with new models.
You may ask what relevance the latest car from a motor show stand has on the classic car world, but in the corners of the globe that are now brimming with better economies, new buyers want to immerse themselves in the heritage of these brands. Demand for the new car raises awareness of the older ones and we again see a new market emerge that shows growth as another declines, thus maintaining the status quo across the global market.
In the UK alone, the classic car industry is reported to contribute around £5.5m to the economy annually across its many facets. Suppliers, engineering, sales and all the spin-off businesses that rely on continued demand will all benefit from this stability, as will the enthusiasts who now have a better transparency of prices and costs of services that these suppliers charge. This will be the same across many established markets such as Europe and the US, although in developing markets, there may still be uncertainty until it all finds it feet there. This will all be helped however by the manufacturers now entering the classic car world with their own businesses providing restoration, parts supply and even sales of these older cars.
Barely a day goes past where the dreaded word “Brexit” doesn’t enter the news, although given that the classic car industry has always operated on such a global scale, logistics have always been difficult in certain parts of the world, so perhaps this won’t be any different for us here in Europe’s newly-divorced island. Only time will tell, but I don’t foresee any drastic effect on values moving forward if currencies manage to find their balance throughout the process.
Canny collectors who held fast to their cars through the year rather than bailing out prematurely will have been rewarded by the fact that the meteoric rise in values has not been swiftly followed by a plummeting fall. In fact, with many people now returning to the market, some of those blue-chip cars will have more buyers than cars available for them, so a nice steady climb may still be in store for those owners who have them tucked away.
So, as we leave 2017, who have been winners? As always, you have a reasonably safe bet from the fabled Prancing Horse stable in Maranello. Ferrari continues as a brand that sells on aspiration and desire, and with new cars continuing to stun the world with each launch, it’s safe to say that it was another year for their classics to show where the sensible money was. Ferrari as a brand also showed faith by extending their dealer network and its Classiche programme.
Porsche too saw more dealers start to help themselves to a slice of the classic car cake with many now providing parts and services as well as sales with an official stamp. The later air-cooled 911s that stunned with prices in 2016 have come back to more palatable levels, but motorsport derived classics now show promise.
Aston Martin too entered their second century plan by replacing their long in the tooth models with new show stoppers, as well as securing more motorsport victories and dipping their toes into new markets with more limited-run special models. Whilst the older 1950’s & 1960’s DBs have maintained their more sensible level, it is now the turn of the later ‘80s and ‘90s poster cars such as the V8 Vantages and Vanquishes to endear themselves to the new world.
Worthy of mention in this category must also be given to Jaguar, Bentley and Maserati who keep pushing onwards with marketing their illustrious heritage, and also Land Rover whose dominance in the 4×4 markets have seen early Range Rovers nudging past the £100k mark for the first time.
2017 won’t be remembered for anything startling in the classic car world, even if it will be in the political one. Instead, we can breathe relief that we managed to steady the ship and keep it sailing for a bright and prosperous 2018.