With the 2016 collector car auction season in the books, Block Chaser sat down with Alain Squindo, chief operating officer (COO) at RM Sotheby’s, to get his perspective on the year that was and his predictions for the year to come.
Block Chaser: How would you describe 2016 from a car-collecting point of view?
Alain Squindo: We started the year with a lot of chatter about the health of the market. Assumptions were made that there would be a 10- or 20-point regression from 2015. In general, people expected 2016 to be a less-exciting year for collector car sales, and the first few RM Sotheby’s auctions heading into the summer seemed to prove that. We were setting records, but the auctions weren’t gangbusters like the last few years.
BC: Was that the case for all of 2016?
AS: What really marked 2016 is how we ended the year. The last two events of the year for us were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We partnered with Ferrari to host a single-car charity auction at Daytona Beach, Fla., in December, which featured a one-of-a-kind LaFerrari. The car was built as a gift for Italy, with proceeds benefiting victims of the recent earthquakes in central Italy. The car garnered a US $7,000,000 winning bid, which set a world record for a 21st century automobile sold at auction.
Another standout of the year was our Duemila Ruote sale at the end of November, which represented the largest single-collection automobile auction ever held in Europe, with more than 420 vehicles crossing the block, all at no reserve. That auction stunned the car-collecting market and achieved a total of US $54,850,000. We literally doubled the presale estimate that we would have been very pleased to reach.
BC: What did those last auctions and events of 2016 teach you?
AS: We learned that it’s remarkably easy to overanalyze the car market, which is very passion-driven. In reality, a lot of what makes this industry sizzle is no-reserve attractiveness and cars that won’t come up for sale again, or at least, any time soon.
BC: Are there any cars that sold during RM Sotheby’s auctions in 2016 that stand out as banner sales for the year?
AS: The 1955 Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-Type, XKD 501, which sold for US $21,780,000 in Monterey, was definitely a standout. Not only was it the top seller at this year’s Monterey week, but it became the most valuable British car ever sold at auction, breaking the previous record by US $7,000,000. It had an extraordinary history, and we were very proud to bring it to market.
BC: Did that sale set a new benchmark for all Jaguar D-Types, or is that car a unique example within that category?
AS: Setting precedent and rules is more difficult at that level of the market. The difference in values between the best Ferrari GTOs, for example, is millions upon millions of dollars.
A Jaguar D-Type, in and of itself, is rare and highly sought after, but the example we offered was one of those cars that had everything going for it. It had the right pedigree—a very desirable racing history, including Le Mans provenance—it spent 20 years in one of the top private collections in the United States, and it is widely recognized as the most important Jaguar ever made. There was also the perfect storm of it being offered for sale through the right auction house at the right time.
BC: Were there any sales during the year that were surprising for the lack of interest or a low hammer price that they achieved?
AS: The Jim Click Collection at Monterey was a challenging one. We just didn’t have enough buyers for those specific cars at that particular moment in time. There were so many tremendous cars offered for sale that are so attractive to racing drivers, but that just wasn’t their particular day.
BC: Have you noticed any new trends developing in the car-collecting hobby?
AS: Modern classics and low-production modern supercars are particularly in demand. In Monterey this year, there were fewer 1950s and ʼ60s cars for sale than in previous years, while, across all sales, modern classics represented almost 25 percent of all the cars that were presented. There were almost twice as many vehicles from 2010 and newer than we had seen in the previous two years on the Monterey Peninsula. A quick look at early 2017 sales also shows some great modern classics on auction dockets.
BC: Were there any noteworthy sales within that category?
AS: The 1995 Porsche 911 GT2, which sold for US $2,476,320 during our London sale, smashed the previous record for that model. That signaled a major turn in the modern Porsche 911 market. There is a generation that’s coming into its own that very much appreciates cars of this type.
BC: What else can you tell us about RM Sotheby’s auctions in 2016?
AS: Our international footprint continued to expand. We sourced consignments from 25 countries and attracted bidders from 69 countries. About 50 percent of those bidders were new clients to RM Sotheby’s, and about 20 percent of them participated in auctions online. That’s a 12 percent increase in online bidders from 2015 and proves that this is definitely a global hobby, and you no longer need to be physically present in the sale room.
BC: How would you describe the overall strength of the car-collecting hobby?
AS: 2016 has been a very positive year, with steady and sustainable growth witnessed in many sectors of the market, especially modern classics. Good cars offered fresh to market, that are well presented, event-eligible and sensibly priced, are selling strongly, but more importantly, the depth of interest and enthusiasm for the hobby at large remains at an all-time high.
The health of the market should not be judged on values alone. Like any market, there will be peaks and troughs. You need to also consider event attendance, website views and magazine sales. Taking all of that into account, there’s a strong interest in classic car ownership. Our consignment rates heading into 2017 are ahead of schedule, and in recent years, the ballroom where we host our Amelia Island auction has been bursting at the seams.
Photos courtesy of RM Sotheby's.