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Collecting Cars boss: We’re here to disrupt the classifieds, not just the auction houses

Time 11 months ago

Collecting Cars has smashed through £11m of sales within a year of starting and it has big plans for the future too.

Appearing on Car Dealer Live, founder Edward Lovett revealed the relative new kid on the block’s success as he explained just how the curated pan-European online auction platform worked – where bids start at £1.

Host James Batchelor remarked on how Collecting Cars was a sharp contrast to many people’s views of the classic car auction world, which could be seen as somewhat snooty and cliquey, and Lovett said: ‘It can be. To be clear though, although yes we are an auction platform, we aren’t here to disrupt just the car auctions, we’re here to disrupt the classifieds. We feel like we’re more of a replacement to the classifieds than we are the auction houses.’

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The former dealer principal and director of dealer group Dick Lovett added: ‘My target for our first year of sales was 250 cars, the fantasy was 500 cars, and I think in our first year we just broke through 350 cars from our first auction that ended in the first week of June 2019.

‘We were proving the concept in the first six months. It took us from 2nd June 2019 to the first week of January this year to break through our first million pounds of cars sold, and as of last night (16th) we’ve broken through £11 million, so we’ve done in excess of £10 million-worth of business since January at the start of this year.’

How had the coronavirus and lockdown affected the business, wondered Batchelor. It had actually proved to be beneficial, said Lovett, as a captive audience stuck at home surfed the web and looked at its site.

Having already seen month-on-month growth in user, bidding and consignment activity up to March, there was another uplift, and with people being unable to get out to see the vehicles, Collecting Cars’ transparency with its descriptions and multiple pictures proved a boon to people at home bidding on cars, he said.

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Lovett told how he started the business out of frustration at the state of the collector car market, having seen it slow down, and Batchelor commented that to run an enterprise such as Collecting Cars one surely had to be a petrolhead.

‘Yes, you maybe do have to be a petrolhead. I love cars, but would I call myself a petrolhead? I’m not sure,’ replied Lovett.

‘I think I’m probably more of a deal junkie than I am a petrolhead. I love the chase. It’s not really about the margin, it’s more about handling the cars, and whether I’m buying something or brokering it or auctioning it, we just love being involved in the different transactions, and we get just as excited by selling a 205 GTI as we do a 488. It’s the chase!’

What did he learn from the family business? It had helped him have an in-depth understanding of how car trading works, said Lovett.

One viewer – Andyuk911 – wanted to know what the typical percentage above trade prices was that they achieved, but Lovett said that they were just too busy because of the exponential growth of daily consignment inquiries to track price activity.

However, at a guess the percentage above trade prices was about 10 to 15 per cent, he said, and in some circumstances it was more than retail, but mostly it was perhaps five per cent less than maximum retail,

Collecting Cars runs a popular podcast series with Lovett’s friend and Top Gear presenter Chris Harris, with 1.1 million downloads at the last count, and Lovett was full of praise for him, although he revealed that the process wasn’t always straightforward…

‘When you put him in front of a microphone, he’s bloody brilliant. However, getting him in front of the microphone is very difficult, because as you can imagine with Top Gear he’s a busy boy, and like many of us has got home schooling and a life to deal with.’

Podcast downloads actually declined during lockdown since fewer people were commuting, said Lovett, which led him, Harris and fellow host Sam Hancock to make some Instagram live videos that raised more than £66,000 for charity.

As for Collecting Cars’ plans for the future, it now has PistonHeads founder David Edmonston on board full time – his podcast episode had more downloads than of any other guest, revealed Lovett – and the company has its eyes set on the continent.

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‘The next move for us is a firm foot into Europe and we’re in the process of setting up an office in Holland,’ he said.

See the broadcast in full by clicking on the main image.

You can watch all of our Car Dealer Live interviews by clicking here.

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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