James Bond

Trends: classic cars

For the love of cars

28 Apr 2023

The global classic car market, which is worth billions, is robust and crisis-proof, driven as it is by the passion of fans, high-class events and auctions and an ever improving network of specialist garages. Provided the joy people take in historic vehicles does not diminish, demand will continue to grow.

The global market is growing

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Following the global economic crisis in 2007, investors began to look around for new, profitable investments – and discovered the classic car market, which had previously been more of a niche segment. In the core markets of the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, there was rapid growth between 2007 and 2015, which then flattened out a little. Digitalisation had a positive effect during this period, while online marketplaces increased buyer participation – with the consequence that the market has enjoyed stable growth since 2020 and was not even impacted by coronavirus.

USA – the largest market

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A strong car industry is the prerequisite for a good classic car market. Capturing 43 per cent of the global market, the USA leads in terms of volume, but the United Kingdom and Germany have higher growth. Local markets are strongly focused on domestic brands, which means that the proportion of German brands on the German market is 72 per cent. Despite many internet-based offers, live auctions are still essential. In all four core countries, regional brands do better online, but auctions have a more international slant.

The most expensive cars of all time

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Cars from the 1950s and 60s achieve the highest prices – one reason behind this is a shortage of supply due to the lower production numbers at the time: only ten million cars were manufactured in 1950, whereas that figure was 90 million in 2019. In terms of the number of cars on offer, Chevrolet and Ford dominate the online marketplaces alongside Jaguar and Mercedes. The more expensive brands such as Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche, by contrast, reign supreme in auctions, where higher prices are generally achieved. Absolute top prices are achieved by stable Ferrari models, but Aston Martin, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo have been catching up in recent years.

USA: the land of Chevrolet and Ford

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The USA is the largest classic car market in the world – with five million vehicles on the market and the highest average prices. Classic car buyers in the USA are prepared to pay more for 1960-era models than the global average. 1963 is regarded as the most expensive model year. The Chevrolet and Ford brands dominate. Mercedes and Volkswagen are in the top 10, but together achieve no more than five per cent of the volume on online marketplaces. Particularly popular classic cars on the American market are Mercedes models from the 1950s.

Germans love their classics

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Until 2020, the number of classic cars in Germany was still under 900,000, but since then it has rocketed to more than 1.4 million. German brands such as Mercedes, VW, Porsche and BMW dominate. VW and Mercedes Benz have the highest proportion of the classic car market, while Porsche regularly achieves top prices. For maintenance, Germany has more than 1600 garages and 400 car dealerships employing a total of 9000 people, including 760 classic car garages with ZDK certification. 38 per cent of classic car owners go to parts markets and 60 per cent of them carry out repairs themselves.

‘Sustainability, value retention and preserving our automotive traditions are the key aspects of what we do.’

Italy: three million classic cars on the roads

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In 2020, Italy generated the world’s third-largest revenue from classic cars at 1.58 billion US dollars. Although more cars are registered in Germany, there are three million classic cars on the road in Italy compared to just 1.4 million in Germany. Italy’s annual growth in classic cars of 13.4 per cent is significantly higher than the global average. The reasons for this include the country’s tradition of manufacturing classic brands as well as high-quality auctions that are attended by people living close to the border in neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, France and Austria. Fiat is the most popular online player in Italy, whereas Volkswagen dominates auctions.

The UK: drive like James Bond

Grafik Classic Car

The British market is small but packs a punch. At the moment, it is one of the smaller players when compared globally, but it is expected to have the highest growth of 17.6 per cent by 2024 – this is thanks to a good supply of classic cars and the high prices that are achieved here, particularly on online platforms, which get better prices here than live auctions. One peculiarity of this market is that British collectors prefer imports; on online platforms, America’s Ford and Germany’s Mercedes regularly beat England’s Jaguar. That said, Aston Martin, made famous by the James Bond films, has the highest average bid prices at over 350,000 US dollars.

Millions of modern classic cars on the go

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The supply of cars for enthusiasts will not dry up. In Germany, for example, the number of registered cars between the ages of 15 and 29 was around 8.6 million in 2020. Of these, more than one million VW Golfs and 650,000 BMW 3s have the potential to become classic cars. But how does a regular car become a classic car? For younger cars it’s no longer rust that is the main enemy shortening their lifespans but the rising amount and complexity of electronics: while VW Golf II (1982–92) used only two electronic control units for motor und overrun cut-off and Golf III (1991–98) used four, Golf IV (1997–2003) made a leap to 45. A challenge for classic car workshops which might open up new specialized fields of work. Overall, reconditioning and maintenance are becoming more and more of a specialist and training topic requiring more specialized workers