So there I was, appointed supercar broker with both a Ferrari Enzo and a Bugatti Veyron, over three million pounds of supercars looking for new owners.
I got the opportunity a few months ago to work as a supercar broker helping some supercar owners trade in and out some of their ‘assets’.
Skipping the details of how I got into this, I will rather share with you what is behind the scene and what you don’t necessarily expect when getting involved into this kind of business.
So there I was, appointed supercar broker with both a Ferrari Enzo and a Bugatti Veyron, over three million pounds of supercars looking for new owners. The former was in the UK, and the latter in the USA. So it was a natural choice to start with the Ferrari Enzo in the UK hoping that proximity could help closing a deal more quickly.
The Ferrari Enzo is one of the most iconic Ferrari ever built. It has a distinctive look. That type of look you either totally love or hate but that will definitely leave an impression on you.
The Enzo embeds Formula 1 technology such as the semi-automatic gearbox, carbon-fibre body and some other technological improvements not allowed in the Formula 1 world such as active aerodynamics and traction control.
In order to buy the Ferrari Enzo new in 2002, you had to be invited by Ferrari to do so. In order to qualify for the invitation, you had to be a respected owner of other Ferrari, even better if they were F40 or F50. Once your interest expressed to your local dealer, he would put you on a list sent to Maranello for them to hand pick the chosen ones.
I explain this process by the extreme design of the car, the technology and also the limited production of 399 cars, subsequently extended to 449. Who says limited production says a collectible car, and who says a collectible car says ‘investment‘. That’s even more true when it is a Ferrari.
Yes, we all know that from the moment we drive the first mile of our brand new people’s car, it has already lost 30% of its value. So logically, we tend to think the same happens with supercars just on a different scale. That is without counting on the fact that Ferrari has the secret recipe for their special supercars to increase in value over the years! A kind of favour to the owners in return for their trust and for the money they invested in Ferrari.
While common people tend to look at these supercars as expensive cars, those who can afford them will look at them as an ‘investment’. Hence why many collectors talk about ‘assets‘ rather than cars. If I had the money to buy and maintain one of those, I would certainly drive it rather than keeping it in a shiny low-mileage condition. But who could blame these investors?
An invitation to buy a Ferrari is an invitation to be richer.
The Ferrari Enzo article on Wikipedia states a price of US $659,330 or £450,000 when new. But what is interesting is how its value on the market increased over the years to go over the US $2,000,000 bar for the best looked after models. This is more than a 200% gain in 15 years on a significant amount of money. That is for the private customers. But if the car belonged to an artist or some famous people, then the selling price could be even higher. Boxer Floyd Mayweather’s Enzo sold for US $3,200,00 in 2015, that’s 4.5 times the price when new.
The graph below shows the evolution of the selling price of the Ferrari Enzo over the years. It relies on incomplete sources of data and also on a limited number of samples. However it does reveal a trend that is undeniable. It also confirms – as far as could be recorded – that a Ferrari Enzo never sold under its price when new, even when salvaged or torn into two pieces.
This sets the environment and the type of people one has to deal with when acting as a supercar broker.
The cars are the stars, not the owners. So famous indeed, that you can find all their history on-line, at least a very good part of it. And as much as being a superstar is not always easy and might be less fun that one would think, supercars don’t have an easy life.
When they are not under the spotlight, they disappear. Either parked for months in a remote warehouse, driven and eventually crashed by either unconscious or unskilled driver, exchanged or sold and shipped to the other side of the world or just travelling to the next event.
The vehicle identification number (VIN) – also called the chassis number – is almost all a supercar broker needs to know about a supercar to start his work. Because unlike other cars, these ones are famous and tracked by their VIN number. And it is amazing the amount of information one can retrieve just based on that number. That particular Enzo I had to sell was the number 132648.
Typical sources of information are forums, car spotting websites but also more official sites as auctions and anything that search engines can return. Once all these resources thoroughly checked you can then start making contacts to fill in the missing bits of information.
Double checking the accuracy of all the information provided is a big part of the work of a supercar broker. But this is not all…
A troubled past
Note that all the information that follows is publicly known and no private information was disclosed.
Poor Ferrari Enzo 132648 went through difficult times from its early ages on. Crashed after just 101 miles, repaired, moved from the USA to Germany. While a crook in the USA was still trying to resell the car using possibly fake documents, it eventually fell in the hands of a drug kingpin in the UK. Due to the nature of his business, the man had to flee the country. The car was seized by the National Crime Agency and sold on auction by Bonhams in 2015 for897,500. Its new owner then tried to put it on an auction organized in 2016 by RM Sotheby’s for a price range of
Bonhams auction on behalf of NCA, lot 366 sold for 897,500 GBP
Broker: a person who arranges transactions between a buyer and a seller for a commission when the deal is executed.
Basically a broker is a middle-man. His services are requested to help either a buyer or a seller, sometimes both, save time and money even considering the fee he is supposed to be charging.
Put in the context of supercars, arranging a transaction as a supercar broker can include many of the following services:
- Prospecting: finding a seller for the buyer or a buyer for the seller;
- Expertise: checking the authenticity of the car, its history and current condition;
- Field work: performing on-site visit to check the car on behalf of or with the buyer/seller;
- Paperwork: checking the validity and authenticity of the documentation, arranging contract and paperwork with the assistance of a lawyer;
- Logistics: coordinating the car delivery.
This are some of the services you might have to deliver. But take into account additional tasks might be required.
If you are interested in being a supercar broker, then there is a good chance money is either the number one or the number two of your motivations. We all have to make a living, would you say! That being said, if you want to make a living then you probably should consider a different market or have another professional activity delivering more sustainable and regular incomes.
It is easier to earn a big commission selling ordinary cars over supercars. The main reason being that the market for ordinary cars exceeds the supercar market by far. This applies to both the number of transactions and the total amount of transactions. This is a bit as you might be excited to see a Ferrari Enzo on the road once a year, while you are not when coming across dozens of Mercedes S-class on your regular journey to work. In the end the total amount of money the Mercedes represent is far higher than the value of the Enzo, but it is less fun and exciting for sure.
Each transaction is as unique as each of the cars involved. There is no single model when it comes to charging your commission or fee but there are some guidelines you can follow. This involves answering the following questions:
- How much?
This will depend on the level of service provided and also on the number of middle-men like you who are involved. Yes, don’t be surprised to find out you might not be the only one. But be sure you have been able to understand the full chain of people connecting the seller to the buyer and what the role of each is fulfilling.
The more experienced you will be, the more services you will be entrusted. So start progressively and be clear on the added value that you are bringing.
Remember that people collecting this type of car usually have dozens or hundreds of them. If you prove to be professional and useful, then might go straight back to you for the next time. So it is better to start small while you are making yourself known and think long term favouring the recurrent business.
The rule of thumb is that you should not be losing money. The fee should cover the overall amount of time you spent facilitating the deal as well as any costs involved.
That depends on which side of the transaction you are sitting and who pushed for the deal to happen. Was it the seller, the buyer or yourself? If you are directly dealing with the seller and the buyer, then you might be able to charge both.
Remember, don’t be greedy and always charge what you think is fair.
The commission can either be charged as a flat fee or as a percentage of the sale. A flat fee is usually good to cover extreme prices and to limit your fee to a fair amount of money representative of the work done. A percentage is obviously more convenient for big transactions. It can be used to reflect the assumption that more expensive cars require more work to sell.
A combination of both is a good trade off: the flat fee to cover the standard work to be done regardless of the amount of the transaction and the percentage to reflect the additional work, risk and involvement that increase as the amount of the transaction increases.
As I was working on this Ferrari Enzo case, I did my research homework and then started to make contacts.
I contacted supercar dealers and auction houses both for data validation about the car and for prospecting. I then suddenly realized that working as a supercar broker on a transaction for a supercar of this class unlocked many doors. You get to directly deal with CEO’s and directors who are all hear to what you have to offer as soon as you say “Ferrari Enzo”. This is the first part of the passphrase; the second part of the passphrase is the VIN number you will have to provide at some point to prove the car you are dealing is real.
The feeling is almost the same as if you were friend with a Hollywood superstar. You suddenly become important, people pay attention to you.
Then it is important to know what is likely to happen after that first exchange. Every party will be checking the information provided, at different levels. They may rely on their own expertise, on independent experts as well as on the maker of the car itself – in that case Ferrari – . It is key to confirm that the car is authentic, accident- and trouble-free and was serviced by Ferrari all the way through since it was produced.
People like Marcel Massini developed an expertise in checking the background of Ferrari supercars. It is very important to make sure that the buyer gets what he has been offered. Relatively to the cost of a Ferrari Enzo, the cost of getting this information checked is insignificant.
Privacy, discretion and security
When reading about the latest collectors auctions records, you might think scandalous amounts of money are spent. But you would be surprised to find out this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Auctions houses play a far greater role than just providing a hammer and a man shouting numbers. They take advantage of knowing the market and having all the contacts to settle private transactions. The amounts of these transactions can exceed by far the auctions records you can read in the automotive press. The main drivers I found for this were privacy, discretion and security. This is what this world is all about.
As sellers don’t always want to go public, then auction houses can offer them to work under a non disclosure agreement or NDA. The car will still be advertised in the auction catalog but the seller’s name would only be known by some key people in the house and the confirmed buyer. The bank would also eventually know the name as they have to perform checks against money laundering and more importantly they have to perform the financial transaction itself.
The next level up in terms of privacy is the private sale. This can be justified in the case a potential buyer was already identified.
It can also be because the car itself is already famous and advertising it would be the same as disclosing the name of its owner.
There is also the security concern, the bigger the amount of the transaction the more badly intentioned people might be attracted.
Private sales also benefits the auction houses helping them maintaining their position in the luxury market while leveraging on their networks.
In any case security is always a concern. You can be sure that whenever a supercar like a Ferrari Enzo is on sale, the security will have been reinforced.
You never know who you’re working for
I finally got a call from one of the contacts I made at an auction house. They had an interested buyer on a flight between Japan and Australia who was willing to make a deposit to secure the transaction. I know, the mention of the flight is not really necessary but that is part of the experience. Customers and buyers are always in fancy, hype, trendy, luxurious places, and almost always about to take the plane. That’s just how things are !
That was exciting news for me in my new role as supercar broker. I was about to finalize my first transaction but then, the seller retracted and left me in a very uncomfortable situation.
Lesson learnt: the first thing to do, regardless of who you are working for, is to make sure your client is serious in his business. It is more difficult if you are just another broker among the brokers. But by the time offers are made you should have built a relation of trust with your direct contacts and have gained from them some key information about the seller or buyer, enough to know that things are serious.
I then had to start the hunt the other way round and find a Ferrari Enzo for sale. Bearing in mind only 449 were made, this was no easy task. I finally got a lead for a valid candidate in terms of specifications, colour and mileage. Doing my homework all over again to check the condition of the car, its history, etc. I found out that the car had two owners. It was also offered for sale by a supercar dealership in London who left the ad active on their website but admitted the car had been sold just two weeks ago.
The true owner got from the dealer to remove the add but timelines did not add up and the asking price was too high. My instinct felt more problems coming so I just forgot about this lead. That very same dubious dealer offered me another option. It was an Enzo on a cargo to Australia. However they could happily get it back to the UK if was I interested…
Finding serious customers and reliable partners is not always easy. That is why being able to say ‘no’ can save your reputation.
Huge sums of money, international environment, exclusivity and the most exciting supercars. On the flip side, uncertainty, risks, dodgy organizations and unreliable people. This is what awaits you if you chose to go down the road of supercar broker.
You need to be an expert on the supercars you are dealing, be able to tell apart a serious buyer/seller from a curious inquirer, understand where the money comes from and where it goes and above all, stay away from crooks and money laundering. In order to close a deal, a good sense of timing is required. But there, I feel mainly experience will allow you to develop this skill.
Buyers are wealthy and know what they look for. Transactions can happen in the blink of an eye, so be prepared and make sure everything is in order – from the paperwork to the cleaning and delivery of the car – because when the time comes to complete the deal, it is your reputation that is at stake.