Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - SurreyStangs

I wonder if anyone with trade experience can help me. I have long been in love with American muscle cars but only as an enthusiast.

As a result of my day job, I've come to meet someone who is in the auto sales business in the US. Long story short, I'm doing homework on whether there is decent money to be made in sourcing muscle cars from the US, getting them IVAd and selling them on in the UK or in Europe.

The immediate models in my view are late model (2010 onwards) Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers as they are cheaper and could help me build up some funds/capital to make bigger investments. Eventually, I'd like to move on to classic cars.

My questions briefly are:

  • Is the market already too crowded with too many importers? Am I just going to get myself into trouble?
  • How big is the market? What's a realistic annual figure of units to shift?
  • What kind of pre-tax profit margin can I expect to make on a business like this? Is that a silly question?
  • Any other non-obvious pitfalls to watch out for?

Apart from the above, any advice really would be really, really appreciated. I'm a marketing analyst and this is not my field at all - but it would be a dream come true to be able to make a living out of a business like this.

Edited by SurreyStangs on 16/02/2017 at 09:57

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - SLO76
Our MD looked into this a while back. We had at the time space to spare in our small factory unit and he's a petrolhead with a few quid in the tail and a fondness for cars like this. However when the current Mustang began official rhd imports it killed (in our opinion) the market for small scale imports of modern US muscle cars stone dead.

Why buy a compromised lhd car when you can go to your local Ford dealer and buy the best one on the market with the steering wheel on the correct side of the car and a warranty? Even if you can't afford one then the majority will wait until used cars start appearing.

It's a nice wee dream but I don't think you'll find much of a market for modern lhd American muscle now and I certainly wouldn't be investing in it. As Duncan Bannatyne would say... I'm out.
Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - gordonbennet

SLO76 is spot on here, anyone who wants a decent modern American car is likely to take advantage of the Mustang now available here via Ford dealers in RHD.

I've been keeping an eye on Mustang prices purely out of interest because we test drove a nearly new one around 2007 with a view to buying, they were excellent value then but prices have crept constantly higher, limiting ever more who might consider one, they're hardly a daily hack and if too expensive it limits who might choose one as a second car.

There will always be a market for older US classics, modern classics and unusual models, but yes i reckon Ford have pulled the rug out from the modern importers.

The other problems is that Britain is overpopulated and the roads are no longer aspleasurable to use as even 20 years ago, no point in owning such a car just to look at it on yoru driveway or sit in traffic with it, LHD limits available overtaking, of which the opportunities are getting ever more rare.

Too late in my humble.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - SurreyStangs

There will always be a market for older US classics, modern classics and unusual models,

Thanks for that Gordon. I wonder if maybe I need to shift my focus rather than kill this dream straightaway.

The other avenue I considered was initially starting with importing "project cars" that I can get cheaply - 60s and 70s American cars which have some demand and interest out here to enthusiasts who might want to take on restoration projects. And then move on to cars in better condition. But that is turning out to be quite difficult to do calculations with - it feels like with project cars, the right price is really what the right buyer is willing to pay.

Alternatively, there are modern classics (the US does not seem like a great place for modern classics though!) or "unusual" special edition models that you get for exclusivity.

But it does feel like importing vanilla muscle cars might be a bit risky right now.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - gordonbennet

The other avenue I considered was initially starting with importing "project cars" that I can get cheaply - 60s and 70s American cars which have some demand and interest out here to enthusiasts who might want to take on restoration projects.

Like anything you won't know till you try, if you have the right contacts (half the battle) buy something you fancy for yourself but think might interest others, bring it in advertise it and see what happens.

If it sells at a fair profit, then you're on the way to your revised ambition and oce up and running you can dabble, if it doesn't then you've bought yourself something most of us only daydream about.

What you are up against is the well established Japanese grey market, not only are the cars RHD but they don't use salt in Japan so rust isn't an issue, their mileages are usually really low, and the Japanese really take care of their cars, plus the cars are durable and reliable designs, thats heavy competition in the alternative car market, plus Japanese cars seem to have a good following in the UK with younger car fans.

Some really desirable cars too, ones which should have come here and would have sold well ie such as automatic WRX's without huge spoilers and later model Toyota Camry for instance (which are really popular in the USA), and they have their own limos such as Toyota Century which could probably out-Cadillac a Cadillac.

Edited by gordonbennet on 16/02/2017 at 11:02

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - SurreyStangs

What you are up against is the well established Japanese grey market,

Gordon, thanks again for that input. I have my list of Japanese favourites as well but there seem to be so many well established used Japanese car importers, I honestly got a little bit scared to even put my toe in there. But mayb something to look at.

Sourcing Japanese cars does seem to be a lot easier because of the reasons you mentioned - the whole sector of used car exports seems to be a lot more organised and slick. Sites like Goo-net make it doubly easier.

Having said that, on the subject of Japanese cars, the US is not a bad place to source Japanese classics which are also beginning to find a fan following here.

Datsun Z cars or the 1st and 2nd gen Celicas, or even some unusual German metal might be easier to sell on at a premium.

As much as I personally LOVE cars like the Century (which could definitely out-Cadillac a Cadillac), I'm unsure what the sale-potential of something like that would be.

Based on this conversation, I feel like "Unusual", "exclusive" or "classic" are the keywords to focus on, if the end goal is a resale.

Very much appreciate the thoughts on this thread.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - SurreyStangs

Good point - I guess if I myself really wanted a Mustang, I'd hang on for just 3 years till the 3 year lease cars started finding their way to the used forecourts, and you'll probably be able to get them for half price with approved dealer warranty and good finance options, cheaper insurance since it's a UK model, RHD etc.

This was kind of my fear, appreciate the feedback.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - tourantass
Hi (couldn't start a new thread) While on the subject of dreams....I would love to get a camper prob one of the japenese imports can anyone suggest the best model to go for as there is a few to choose from, I will require an auto (slush box)
Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - gordonbennet

With any camper i would suggest to get one based on a van, not a MPV as such unless that too, is van based itself, obviously built to take some punishment.

If you search out the various Toyota Hiace based models, try to find one with the 2.4 or 3 litre turboDiesels, these are Hilux engines so as near bombproof as you could get, for LPGing the 2.7 petrol is also used in Hilux but its a 4 pot NA unit so could be a dire thing for power in a camper, if you find one with a 3.4 or 4.0 litre V6 petrols they are plucked from 90/120 series Landcruisers in which they are amply powerful enough, surprisingly fast in fact.

Mazda's seem to have a good following here but i know the back end of nowt about them.

Nissans Elgrande's you see about, but again i know nothing about them nor where the engines come from, why i suggest Toyota is that unless you chose the 2.7 4 pot petrol, i believe all the other engines are available here in either Hilux, Landcruiser or Hiace van/minibus, ditto gearboxes, which makes likely spares and service parts and importantly product knowledge better, at least in theory, and they are regarded as being long lasting tough reliable units, with a few known issues, the only serious one being copper injector seals used on 3 litre d4d engines 04 to 08, easy enough to check and replace if necessary.

I wouldn't be so keen on something Previa based with a 2.2 or whatever Diesel lump lying on its side completely under the floor.

You'll be surprised just how expensive these things are.

Edited by gordonbennet on 16/02/2017 at 12:58

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - tourantass
Thanks Great advice, i have been looking at some Bongos and the ford equivalent... but as you say, campers get very expensive, maybe i need to think about converting a van...or perhaps just hiring one whenever I fall back into my "Mid life Crisis +10"
Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - gordonbennet

Converting a van? rust is the biggie, and not just where you can easily see it.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - gordonbennet

There is an alternative, best if you are warm weather trekkers and into a bit of wild camping.

That is if you don't mind owning a decent sized 4x4 instead of a car, there is loads of info out there about roof tents which fold flat and you leave on the vehicle all season, open out awnings, loads of room in the boot for all you stuff.

Its more for wild camping, because you can go places well away from where the usual motor camper and caravan owners go, robust ex WD Sankey or similar trailer on the back if you prefer traditional ground tents, Sankey will go anywhere the towing vehicle can go.

A much cheaper option which might give food for thought, the Austrailians are big into these, and you have an alternative vehicle far more use for rest of year.

Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - tourantass
Yeh I have looked at those, and the "Oztent" which looks good but expensive (for what iit is) we have already got a "quick errect" tent that I got sent over from germany which is ace, but we plan to take the grandkids on our adventures so a bit of luxury would be good (for us anyway) i have turned the boot area in our mpv into a bit of a "Stealth Camper" with pull out plastic containers for storing stuff in which works wel, so maybe turn it all into a kingsize bed and see how we get on.
Seeking advice : Want to start a muscle car import business - drd63

Vans or Stangs, any import is going to cost more with recent devaluation of the £. As others have said now the Mustang is available as official RHD version why would you import recent LHD. Even post April tax rules work in its favour if you're planning on keeping for a few years.

 

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