Parts and the Pandemic: What We’re Hearing

November 17, 2020

When the COVID-19 outbreak erupted last winter, everyone was uncertain of how it would play out. After 10 months, we know it has been a destructive event on a human and economic level like we haven’t experienced in our lifetimes.

Overall Market Is Moving

There were some unexpected consequences. As citizens were forced to stay home their cars started getting a lot more attention including a surge in collector car sales. The new world order is online auctions and while lacking the theater of head-to-head paddle raises, online bidding is no slouch. The year isn’t over, but recent results as reported in the January 2021 Sports Car Market are impressive with Fall auctions tallying more than $130M. 

It has also definitively announced the arrival of the Millennial collector. As Hagerty Valuation Service’s John Wiley said, Millennials are “the fastest-growing demographic of car collectors” having grown 76 percent in the last five years. “The oldest ones are around 40 years of age. They’re adults now. They have driver’s licenses and jobs.” They have a penchant for pony and muscle cars as good entry points, but their tastes will inevitably expand. 

Surge in Collector Part Orders

The growth is pushing parts sellers’ capacity. Cars are moving to new owners that inevitably means repairs and restorations to that person’s satisfaction, filling bays at garages and restoration shops. Even more, private owners are taking time to finish projects or get neglected vehicles on the road. Driving and repairing cars is truly a pandemic safe activity!

We have spoken to more than a dozen specialty parts suppliers and they are struggling to fill orders. One shared with me that after a three week pause when the pandemic hit, that business came bouncing back. His business is going to be up 25-30 percent year-over-year. Others are seeing similar growth. 

It will be interesting to see if this surge in collector cars sustains. I suspect it will but perhaps not at current levels for a few reasons:

  • Some of the new norms may be around awhile so cars will continue to get more attention and use.
  • New owners “get the bug” and one car begets two and so on. 
  • A new interest in DIY projects -- fueled by amazing knowledge-sharing on YouTube -- will lure owners to try new things.
  • A new generation of owners has come of age. They will change the hobby in ways we can’t fully appreciate yet. One thing is certain: Millennials will expect to handle purchases almost entirely online. 

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a tough year. I look forward to getting back to driving events, cars and coffees, car shows, races, swap meets and everything else so I can see the new owners and their sweet rides in person. 

[Photo Credit: Embroidered facemask for sale on Etsy by @DieselDesigns911 for $23.16.]

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