Dealer View

Re­vealed: why the cus­tomer isn’t al­ways right

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - CHIS McPHEAT McPHEAT AU­TO­MO­TIVE

Chris McPheat, McPheat Au­to­mo­tive

How has the year so far been, in terms of sales?

I don’t fo­cus on sales as I’m not much of a closer: The cars have to be hon­est and sell them­selves; and I talk about cus­to­di­an­ship rather than own­er­ship. Most cars are sold on com­mis­sion, and most of th­ese over the past year be­longed to one cus­tomer who passed away. I worked closely with him build­ing up a col­lec­tion of post-war Pan­hards and Ta­tras and I have been sell­ing them for his widow.

Sales-wise, what are peo­ple ask­ing for? Is there a bias to­wards a cer­tain era or type?

I don’t have cus­tomers ask­ing for any­thing in par­tic­u­lar – they al­ready know what they’re look­ing for and come to me when they find that I have it. The hard­est to sell are those with big en­gines, and peo­ple have a base­less fear of any­thing with more than 100,000 miles on the more mod­ern cars (’70s-’90s). I keep read­ing about the XJ-S be­ing ‘up and com­ing’ but I can’t sell mine and it’s a re­ally good cheap car, so much bet­ter than a half de­cent MGB but for half the price. It’s the best car I’ve never sold.

Who’s bring­ing you the busi­ness – en­thu­si­asts or in­vestors?

I guess I have a mix of long-term in­vestors, short-term profit-based cus­tomers and – mostly – own­ers/ en­thu­si­asts. I re­ally only get word-of­mouth cus­tomers: I don’t ad­ver­tise and I don’t look for pass­ing trade.

You of­fer an in­spec­tion ser­vice – how many peo­ple take this up?

Not enough, if the ‘re­stored’ MG SA I have in the work­shop is any­thing to go by! Again, I only get this through word-of-mouth or pre-ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and have done maybe 10 in two years. I don’t pro­mote the ser­vice but al­ways rec­om­mend it and do what I can to help if some­one wants to have one of my in­ven­tory cars in­spected. Last year a cus­tomer sent me to New York and LA to view an Es­pada, a Tes­tarossa and a hand­ful of 328s.

How clued-up are to­day’s buy­ers?

Not par­tic­u­larly. With post-war Pan­hards I’ve had to build a mar­ket be­yond the UK own­ers’ club and Euro­pean mar­ket, of­fer­ing some­one who speaks English and knows the cars. This has led to sales as far afield as Aus­tralia and the US and can only come from web searches. With th­ese ob­scure cars (Pan­hard, Ta­tra) if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen more than most.

‘My Jaguar XJ-S is the best car I’ve never sold’

Perum dem de­bis mo venim que dolup­tas et volupit fugit, sini­ant as pre ne opti deb­itiur,

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