One auction just sold $345 million in classic cars. Here’s why that’s a bad sign – CNBC

Posted: Monday, August 22, 2016

Sales at high-end car auctions in Pebble Beach and Monterey, California, fell 13 percent from last year, marking a further slowdown in the classic car market.

In sales at last week’s Monterey Car Week, the California auctions pulled in $345 million. That’s below the $370 million many had expected, and well under last year’s $396 million, according to Hagerty, the car insurance and valuation firm.

The auctions, which stretched over four days, are held in conjunction with the Concours d’Elegance — considered the Super Bowl of high-end collectible cars.

While sales of super-rare, top-quality “masterpiece” cars were strong, younger, more commonplace cars came in below expectations. Collectors and experts said buyers, nervous about the elections and slowing global economic growth, have become more discerning and sensitive to high prices after years of rapid run-ups.

Only 56 percent of the cars being offered for auction actually sold, according to Hagerty. That’s down from last year’s 58 percent and 63 percent in 2014. Some experts say the lower sales rate is a positive sign, since it shows sellers aren’t anxious to unload their cars until they get the right price.

“The fact that some sellers are holding out for strong prices means we are not seeing any signs of people desperate to leave the market,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty.

The average sale price of $479,643 was higher than last year’s $456,067. It was boosted by several record-breaking cars at the very top, including a 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster that sold for $21.8 million. That price earned it the title of the most expensive British car ever sold at auction. The first Shelby Cobra ever built sold for $13.8 million, and became the most expensive American car ever auctioned.

Seven cars sold for more than $10 million, marking the best year ever for eight-digit sales. Meanwhile, Gooding & Company had its biggest one-day sale ever on Saturday, pulling in $76.7 million.

Yet overall, Hagerty said that “outside that narrow, ‘best of the best'” slice, bidding was slow and sell-through percentages were the lowest in Monterey since at least 2000. Especially weak were sales of cars from the 1990s and later.

Here are the 10 most expensive cars sold at Monterey Car Week, according to Hagerty. The numbers include buyer’s premiums.

1. 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster (RM Sotheby’s): $21.8 million

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