The Future of Classics – A Forecast
Where is the journey heading? What does the future hold for classic cars? A frequently asked question in the automotive sector, especially when it comes to classics. Many things are currently on the move: New drive concepts are finding their way into current new cars, but does that also have an impact on my classic?
Where does the classic car market stand after the boom of old and youngtimers in recent years? Should one buy a classic with a perspective now and what can a supplier do to remove possible obstacles?
Many questions surrounding the future of classics, some not easy to answer without having to read from coffee grounds. Nevertheless, developments can be read from recent history that allow conclusions to be drawn about the future.
Torsten Claus and Christian Plagemann are the founders and managing directors of Classic Trader. They have been very close to the classic car market for many years, both out of professional and private interest, and can report first-hand on supply and demand trends.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE CLASSICAL MUSIC MARKET? WHAT HAVE BEEN THE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAST 1-2 YEARS?
Christian Plagemann: In the recent past, we have observed a correction of the value structure to a realistic level again. In some cases, the market was unhealthily heated up, especially for some brands and models.
So a kind of correction and adaptation of the market to the needs and tastes of a new generation is taking place. Vehicles from the 80s and 90s, and in some cases even from the 2000s, are enjoying great popularity. A new generation is getting on board and orienting itself to the vehicles of its own youth.
Today, for example, an Audi quattro sells faster than an Opel Olympia or a Mercedes-Benz 170 from the 1950s. But even at the top, the further development into a real-value class of its own is discernible.
Torsten Claus: What is crucial in this context is the issue of suitability for everyday use, as well as the existing service and maintenance infrastructure.
Especially first-time buyers who do not already know the workshop they trust or can even repair small things themselves attach importance to these points and expect reliability and safety.
First-time buyers crave this kind of support and security and sometimes choose brands like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz in this country for this reason, which are also known above all for their reliability, good parts availability and a continuous service network.
In addition to the entry-level classics, there is also a trend towards supercars and hypercars. There is a lot of movement in the upper price segment, but also in the lower one. At the moment, it is precisely the mid-price segment that has consolidated in terms of price and leaves the answer open for a return to rising values in the near future.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
Christian Plagemann: New classic car drivers have to be picked up. Emotions must be transferred to a new generation via new media in order to secure the future of the classics.
Whereas 30 or 40 years ago you could reach a large part of the clientele with print publications alone, today you have to play the media landscape more broadly and go where the new interested parties are.
Certainly, the best glossy photos on Instagram and the most dynamic videos on TikTok cannot convey the smell and vibration, the work on and in an old car. But the first step can only happen in this way, in order to subsequently get the next generation behind the wheel for the first time.
Torsten Claus: That’s exactly what it’s all about, spreading the word across several channels doesn’t necessarily replace the classic media and established events and trade fairs. It’s more about the initial contact.
The real emotions and an intense bond come when you actually sit in the car and start the engine for the first time. As soon as the key has been turned and the first few metres have been driven, it is quickly decided whether you have petrol in your blood and whether a strong bond can quickly develop with the subject.
In addition to the usual attributes of successful marketing, we believe that one of the most important things in marketing classic vehicles is to establish the necessary trust.
Classic vehicles are not new cars and therefore the art of marketing them is to create a high degree of transparency and security – attributes that massively facilitate the sale of a vehicle priced in line with the market.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS TO THE PRESSING QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF CLASSIC CARS?
Torsten Claus: The international classic car market has to deal with the issues of shaping the future just like the rest of the automotive industry.
One aspect, for example, is the general acceptance of classic cars in the street scene. There are already solutions in development that can also be used for classic cars and have the potential to take the wind out of the sails of a misguided environmental policy.
This does not only mean the niche electrification of classic cars, but in particular the use of synthetic fuels, which can make the combustion engine and especially the classic car an environmentally friendly companion in the coming years.
HOW MUST THE MARKET POSITION ITSELF IN ORDER TO BE PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE OF THE CLASSICS?
Christian Plagemann: Here I would like to use the word “emotion transfer” again. Classics – like many other things – no longer sell themselves. Whether it’s a pre-war or an elegant sports car from the 1950s, you have to be present as a supplier both online and offline and offer and present the vehicles to potential customers using multimedia.
THERE ARE QUITE A FEW PEOPLE WHO FORESEE THE END OF FUTURE CLASSIC CARS WITH THE ADVENT OF ELECTRONICS IN AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING. HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
Christian Plagemann: You have to distinguish between everyday vehicles and classics: alternative drive concepts are certainly on the rise, as are mobility concepts that are not aimed at owning a car, such as car sharing or car subscriptions. However, neither the one nor the other is necessarily squeezing the classic car market.
Different standards are applied to the car that drives you to work or on holiday than to the topic of leisure mobility. Here, classic cars are playing an increasingly relevant role. After all, there’s nothing wrong with driving a Tesla to daycare on weekdays and taking a BMW Z3 for a drive in the countryside at the weekend.
In addition, it may of course be true that workshops are facing new challenges with classic cars, but a lot is happening there as well. Some control units that cannot be repaired today will probably be easily repaired or replaced by new systems in a few years.
WHICH CARS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE TRADED AS CLASSICS IN A FEW YEARS?
Torsten Claus: The international market for “collector cars” is also subject to trends. They always give rise to new trends and bring forgotten items back onto the agenda of enthusiasts and collectors. Strictly speaking, however, this question can be answered in a similar way to the art market, for example. The big difference is probably in the usability of vehicles to fulfil an everyday purpose – transport from A to B. Rare vehicles with a well-known brand design are also a good example of this.
Rare vehicles with well-known brand designer combinations with outstanding features (in every dimension) are normally a guarantee for attractive increases in value.
But “What’s next”? The search for the next rising stars for the eternal Hall of Fame seems more difficult than ever for many these days. Will there be no more new classics? The answer is quite clearly: No! The prerequisites remain the same and even though society is changing and with it tastes and needs, we are far from having reached the end of the road.
So even today you can still find underdogs, among the lesser-known brands, small-series manufacturers and dead brands. Such as a Maserati Shamal and a Wiesmann Roadster, to name just two examples.
Christian Plagemann: But you have to decide on a case-by-case basis, even within a model. A Golf IV 1.6 Highline, for example, will certainly have to wait a few decades until it has become so rare and thus special that enthusiasts turn to it – it’s different with the R32.
One hears time and again that the market for less sporty pre-war cars is dead. At the moment, however, we see more of a shift towards markets and collectors from the Middle and Far East, where the first and second generation of collectors is only just emerging.
It will be exciting to see how the markets near and far develop, but the enthusiasm of enthusiasts for old and youngtimers is unbroken and new generations are also waiting in the wings for a good future for classic cars.
What does it take to ignite a passion for classic cars? Fond childhood memories of the smell of grandfather’s Opel Kadett C or the dusty Hillman in the blocked garage? Thrilling duels between Mercedes and BMW in the DTM? Or pleasant memories of cult TV stars on four wheels?
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