Though it will be nearly half a year before the first 2011 Bentley Mulsanne rolls down the assembly line, it’s already been sold. An unnamed buyer at the Gooding Auction placed the winning bid of $500,000, late Sunday, to help wrap up what turned out to be an unexpectedly strong performance at the many auctions accompanying the weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
The classic car show attracts some of the world’s most elegant and exclusive automobiles to the Monterey Peninsula, each August – along with a Who’s Who of the collector world. Hoping to take advantage of that, major auction houses like RM, and Gooding, among others, stage elaborate events that, in the past, routinely broke records, year after year after year.
The automotive auction market is often seen as an early indicator of the broader U.S. economy, according to industry experts, reflecting not just the ability but willingness of collectors large and small to shell out cash for their dream cars. A number of auctions held earlier this year underscored that link, with sales frequently falling well below prior year levels.
A preliminary tally of the half-dozen auctions at Pebble Beach, however, suggest that pocketbooks may be loosening back up, says McKeel Haggerty, CEO of Haggerty Insurance, which specializes in the collector auto industry and tracks auction data. In all, he noted, about $117 million in vehicles were sold during the long weekend, a modest dip from 2008.