The virtual hammer fell at £124,500. And so last week a McLaren 720S, with £50,000 worth of options that had raised its list price to nearly £260,000, was sold at two years old and with 5000 miles on the clock. Quite the gulp-worthy depreciation figure, I’m sure you’ll agree? Half its value in 5000 miles. The coronavirus out to get us all again, clearly? Hmm. Not so clearly.
For one, that assumes the original owner paid full whack for their car in the first instance. Which, given you can get a big discount on a new one and McLaren will offer you quite the generous finance agreement while they’re at it, is far from a given.
Used prices for the Ferrari 488 GTB, the car’s contemporary rival, are tracking at £30,000-£40,000 more.
Besides, asking isn’t getting. As Ed Callow from Collecting Cars, the auction site that sold the 720S, told me just before the lockdown began: “The market for classic and collectable cars was already down by something like 20-30% on its 2015/16 peak, long before the coronavirus was mentioned in the news.”
Specialist insurer Hagerty agrees. It produces a useful set of indices that track classic and collector car prices. In December last year, values were at a five-year price low.
They’ve fallen even further now, it’s true. That we’re not allowed out has caused live auction cancellations, and I don’t imagine you’ll be rushing to sign off on a six-figure supercar if your work or business has taken a hit; you might even need to offload something. Probably focuses the mind when it comes to a sale, anyway.
But as Hagerty notes: “Increased traffic to online auction platforms and surprisingly strong online sales show that people are still interested in buying interesting cars.”
Maybe now, though, our situation is finally bringing the expectations of customers in line with market reality.
Callow says: “There’s going to be a temptation for some to blame every ‘no sale’ on this crisis, but the reality is too many sellers simply have an outdated perception of the market.”
The specific issue here, though, is McLaren-shaped. As a director from a rival company once said upon the promise of anonymity, McLaren has a butchery problem: it sells “different lengths of the same sausage”.
The 720S is brilliant, no doubt. We prefer it to the 488 GTB. But while you can dive deep and explore the differences between the Sports and Super Series (such as clever linked suspension, active aero and differing body materials), every McLaren uses the same carbonfibre tub with the same engine in the same place.