RM on track for $29m+ Abu Dhabi GP auction

RM on track for $29m+ Abu Dhabi GP auction 1st December 2019

Saturday’s late-night auction on the start-finish straight at the Yas Marina circuit was exceptionally well presented by RM Sotheby’s but, at a provisional c.50% sell-through by number, wasn’t quite the game-changer many hoped.
 
To achieve the buzz at a glitzy F1 event as the Canadians did over the last couple of days was a major achievement. Significant branding, auction previews running on circuit TV and the great and the good in F1, including Jean Todt and CEO of Formula One Group Chase Carey, attending the sale on the night were testament to that. Speaking to Carey by the side of the track, the American seemed pleased with things: “It’s good, I like it.”
 
Before after-sales, the sell-through is looking like 50%: given some pre-event butterflies and the oddball auction results at Riyadh a few days earlier, we’re sure RM would have settled for that on Friday morning.



At a glance (on the night):
 
* Gross: $29,608,000
* Percentage sold by number: 50%
* Top-selling car: 2017 Pagani Zonda Aether $6,812,500 gross, $6,050,000 net (est. $4.5m to $5.5m)
* Well sold? The Zonda, obviously, but also the 2015 Ferrari FXX K ($4.3m all-in), a highly specialised, track-only car
* Well bought? Tricky, maybe the “let’s-start-again” (wrong colour, wrong engine and wrong transaxle) Daytona at $484k plus taxes
* One to take away? The back-story, the location, his son Mick driving in the supporting F2 race; it has to be the $6.6m gross Schumacher 2002 Ferrari F2002
 
Two subjects – as well as last weekend’s Riyadh sales – were the hot topics on preview day: tax and tradition. Every car in the catalogue carried an asterix denoting: “VAT applicable: Please note that this lot is subject to VAT on the full purchase price (both on the hammer price and commission)”. So, in addition to the hammer price and RM’s usual split-rate buyer’s premium, a hefty chunk of tax (dependent on the destination, and it could be at least 20% on the low-mileage new cars) had to be added to the headline price. To avoid any misunderstandings, there were even tax lawyers on hand for advice. A Certificate of Conformity (CoC) would be needed to register the car in Europe – another issue with Gulf-spec cars.


Despite all this, there were Europeans at the sale, both collectors and the trade. The locals were there, too. Which brings us to tradition. While the region has a history of luxury car-buying going back to the early 1960s, most purchases were actually used in Paris, Rome, Geneva, London, the US or maybe the Lebanon. The local climate was not ideal for 1960s Ferraris and Maseratis then, and nor is it now, even with primitive a/c.
 
Modern supercars are another matter, but they bring their own challenges. With a handful of exceptions – whatever the nice salesman at the shiny new dealership might tell you (“It’s a limited-edition, Sir, you have to earn the right to buy one…”) they lose money. So unless unobtainable elsewhere, they have to be sold at a discount, and sometimes a hefty one, particularly with premiums and taxes. Otherwise, why buy one at an auction?


Fast forward to nine o’clock Saturday evening. After a drinks reception in the Paddock Club, visitors were ushered past open pit garages onto the main straight, where RM had laid out the open air auction. Except the single-seaters, every car was driven past the rostrum manned, as usual, by Maarten ten Holder.
 
It was almost full-capacity at the start, the audience mixture of fascinated locals, Europeans, and professionals from the F1 circus curious to see others making and losing money.


The first big-ticket lot was the for-charity Aston Martin One-77 that sold (with the help of David Coulthard, above) just under low estimate, at $1,440,625 with premium. Before that the first proper classic, the 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS, had stalled at $1.5 million, a sign of things to come for the other older cars.
 
A string of no-sales (Maserati MC12, Porsche 911 Sport Classic, McLaren P1 GTR) then followed, before the Schumacher Ferrari F2002 was knocked down at $5.9m over the telephone, above low estimate and coming in at $6.6m with premium. The McLaren Senna generated no meaningful offers at all, but a few lots later a bidder at the event paid nearly $1.6m gross for the 1956 Mercedes 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ delivered new with sports suspension and tuned (‘NSL’) engine but normal wheels.
 
Next up was the Pagani Zonda. Nearly $6m achieved by Silverstone last week in Riyadh was the figure to beat and RM added another $800k to that last night, again over the ’phone, beating top estimate by $1m. These cars have a passionate following and, unlike others from more mainstream manufacturers, really are difficult to get hold of.
 
Proceedings were wrapped up just after 11pm, with exactly half the cars sold on the night.


So, what can be taken away from this? Buyers in the region are savvy and know what’s available further afield, and at what prices. They won’t easily overpay for instant gratification, and relationships need to be developed over time. Until the last 10 days, the auction format had yet to be tested in the Middle East. If anyone could do it, RM could, with an overall presentation that was standard-setting. The 50% sell-through was probably a fair reflection of the mood of the market considering what was on offer on the night.

3/12/2019 UPDATE: Final figures from RM reveal three post-sale cars ($305k Countach LP400, $525k Diablo GT and $825k Singer 911) taking the gross to $31,263,000 at 58% sell-through.

RM Sotheby’s at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 30 November 2019 – Official results

Gross: $31,263,0000
Number of cars not sold: 17
Number of cars withdrawn: 0
Total number of cars: 40
Number sold: 23
Percentage cars sold by number: 58%
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 51%
Percentage of cars met or sold below low estimate: 74%
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 96%
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 4%
Average age of cars offered: 2000*
Average price of cars sold: $1,359,261
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 23%

*The youngest average age we have reported on.

Photos by K500