If you love cars, and you watch a lot of YouTube, then you know Doug DeMuro.
DeMuro has reviewed cars and written about the auto industry for some time now, but his real claim to fame stems from his YouTube channel, where his earnest, no frills, in-depth, and entertaining car reviews have afforded him a legion of fans. DeMuro’s channel has over 4.6 million subscribers to date and his more popular videos garner millions of views each.
DeMuro’s internet stardom hasn’t kept him from shunning other pursuits, as he dipped his toe into the startup world with his auction site Cars & Bids, which focuses on classic cars from the modern era (typically the ‘80s and up).
Cars & Bids isn’t the first site focusing on car enthusiasts, but it has gained traction even in the face of steep competition from bigger auction sites like Bringatrailer.com. Its popularity led to new funding for expanding the business, with a big $37 million infusion coming from PE firm The Chernin Group.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, at least at the start.
“It's been harder than I expected, to be totally honest. I always tell people, if I had known it was going to be this difficult to run a business like this, I would have just started a podcast,” DeMuro joked during an interview with Yahoo Finance. “Of course we launched this business in June of 2020, we thought it was going to fail because it was COVID. But, actually, we launched into the greatest car market in the history of the automobile — so it all worked out okay.”
Even in an era of rising interest rates, inflationary pressures, and general economic unease, DuMuro said the used car market has done better than feared.
“Obviously, things have slowed down from their very peak, which felt to me like the end of '21, beginning of '22, maybe the spring of '22,” DeMuro said, noting demand is still stronger than he was expecting.
“I was thinking, as interest rates were rising throughout '22, cars would really start to slow down, people would start to maybe pull back on their purchases of these things. That hasn't really happened as much as I thought. Good stuff is still bringing good money,” he says.
Even in-person events, such as the big auctions taking place at the Amelia Island Concours over the weekend, jibe with DeMuro's observations, with auction houses seeing record sales. And Cars & Bids is just riding the wave of high interest in classic and older cars, with Americans at least willing to spend some money to enjoy the car of their dreams, instead of just dreaming about it.
Electrification and why ‘analog’ cars matter
Cars & Bids has many cars on the virtual offer-block, even newer EVs from Rivian (RIVN), Lucid (LCID), and Tesla (TSLA). As a longtime watcher of the car market, and one who’s tested hundreds of vehicles from classic muscle cars to EVs, DeMuro has some thoughts on electrification, especially Tesla and where the brand sits right now.
“When Tesla first came out with the Model S 10 years ago— believe it or not, it's been over 10 years ago, now— it was so far ahead of everybody else that you couldn't catch up to Tesla. There was no possible way to catch up to Tesla; and in the ensuing 10 years, people have caught up,” he says.
Tesla hasn’t come out with anything new or exciting recently, DeMuro says, and he suggests the company’s competitive advantage has “eroded fairly considerably.” Tesla’s CyberTruck is late, he says, and others like Rivian, Ford, have already jumped into the EV pickup wars.
In DeMuro’s view, old stalwarts like Ford and GM are the most likely to catch and bring it to Tesla on the EV battlefield. “When you look at the Ford Mustang Mach-E, to me, that is a very competitive car with the Model Y. I think that General Motors and Ford are very committed to an electric vehicle strategy that is going to make them continually banging at Tesla's door over the next few years.”
The electric race is on, and while Wall Street believes Tesla’s tech and software are still ahead, it seems the traditional competition is making a go of it - and DeMuro seems to think it might be better to bet on Detroit.
However when shifting back to enthusiast cars, which are DeMuro’s speciality, he declined to place any “bets” on specific older cars that he expects to rise in value. It’s too tricky he says given how volatile the market is, though he did say one class of cars will stand out from the rest.
“One segment that I will remain bullish on until probably years to come - analog cars,” DeMuro says. “As the world moves to electric vehicles, which I think are great for most people for daily transportation, I do think there's going to be a huge segment of the enthusiast world that's going to wish to have cars with manual transmissions, cars that have a big engine sound, cars that still feel like the old days - and I think analog cars that have those qualities are still going to continue to be desirable.”
If anyone knows, it would be DeMuro. Now only if he had any advice on where to get a cheap 2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06…