Revealed: why the customer isn’t always right
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’
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