Much Love Left
In this space in June this year, we offered up some lamentable trends in the country’s driving habits: Americans drive fewer miles in total today than they did eight years ago; fewer young people are obtaining driving licenses today than they did in previous years and they also account for an ever-decreasing percentage of new-car sales. Taken together, these data led one transport study to declare the “driving boom is over.”
That might be so. And while these trends do not necessarily bode well for the professional car washing business, it’s heartening to know that they have done little thus far to diminish the enduring love affair we have with the automobile. How else to explain the record amounts of money being shelled out to acquire vehicles of note?
During the recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, CA, various auction houses sold off collector automobiles for a combined total of $244 million. The Los Angeles Times (August 18) reports that this figure reflects an increase of 15 percent over the previous year. Of special note was a particularly rare 1967 Ferrari (full name: Ferrari 275 GTB /4*S N.A.R.T. Spider) that exchanged hands for $27.5 million — a world record amount paid for a road car at auction.
Note the qualifier: road car. For, yes, there is a vehicle that commanded an even higher selling price. According to the British newspaper The Telegraph a 1954 Mercedes W196R F1 race car sold for the equivalent of $29.6 million at a Bonhams auction on July 12 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester, UK. The paper reports that there were 11 bidders, three present at the auction and eight telephone bidders, the majority of which were from the United States.
We have in the past suggested that detailers will find plentiful prospects among car collectors and at car clubs and auctions. Lest you be intimidated by the outsize price tags featured in the above two examples, spend a few minutes paging through the latest issue of Hemmings Motor News (September 2013). A write-up on the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance held June 1 and 2 reveals that during the event, Bonhams sold cars at auction ranging in price from $550 to $875,000 — perhaps more within the comfort level of most detail practitioners.
To amplify the value of collector-car auctions as stomping grounds for recruiting customers, read Richard Lentinello’s column (he’s the executive editor at Hemmings). I bet you’ll be as surprised as I was. Here’s a sample: “All too often we’ve come across some truly filthy automobiles sitting under the auction tents… Besides looking like they haven’t been waxed in years, mud splatter on the bottom of the fenders and smudge marks all over the chrome plating and windows make for a very undesirable product.” This clearly is a situation crying out for detailer intervention.
I would have assumed that all car enthusiasts subscribed to Lentinello’s later words of wisdom: “A clean car is a desirable car, and that almost always translates into higher bids.” Apparently I would have been wrong. Fortunately, however, this neglect creates opportunities for everybody in the car appearance business. It’s there for the taking. Go for it.