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Monterey Car Week: Big auctions, big debuts, and electrification

·Producer/Reporter
·7 min read
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This year’s Monterey Car Week capped off with the stunning 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier claiming the Concours d'Elegance Best in Show, but that wasn’t the only big headline from the week.

Big auctions, big debuts from luxury automakers, and even electrification all took a bow as the wild week, one that was missed in 2020 due to the pandemic, unfolded for well-healed car aficionados. Here are some of the big takeaways from the week.

Big auction action

Prior to Monterey Car Week, we spoke to the auction houses RM Sotheby’s, Mecum, and of course the official auction house of Pebble Beach, Gooding & Company, and they all had similar expectations - it was going to be a big week.

And it was. The big auction houses brought in a whopping total $343 million at the hammer in the week - a 37% jump from 2019. European carmakers, especially one Italian marque, dominated the top 5 auction results:

1. 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe sold for $20,465,000 (Gooding & Company)

2. 1959 Ferrari 250 California LWB Competizione Spider (closed headlight) sold for $10,840,000 (Gooding & Company)

3. 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Coupe sold for $9,520,000 (RM Sotheby’s)

4. 1962 Ferrari 268 SP Spider sold for $7,705,000 (RM Sotheby’s)

5. 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy Coupe sold for $7,705,000 (RM Sotheby’s)

(Source: Hagerty)

Overall, the sell-through rate was a strong 80%, with the average sales price topping $428,004. That signals buyers were hungry for these exotic and unique, and were willing to get into bidding wars to get what they wanted.

Big debuts — and a new Countach


Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4
Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4

Shifting to more modern cars, and even concepts, Monterey Car Week did not disappoint. The biggest, splashiest debut was the new Countach - coming out on the car’s 50th anniversary. Debuting at Pebble Beach on Friday, the familiar wedge shape remains, one that is distinctly Countach looking but modernized with the current styling language of the brand. And it’s a debut clients are liking — with all 112 units spoken for.

“Sales-wise, [the new Countach is] incredible and well accepted, we have a lot of people coming to the brand for the first time with this car, because it’s something they recognize as a piece of art,” Lamborghini Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Federico Foschini said during a roundtable interview. “We have a lot of people that have the old Countach, and now they are configuring the car in the same way.”

Rival Aston Martin had a huge presence at Monterey Car Week, with its massive Club House at Pebble Beach by the 18th green. Tobias Moers, CEO of Aston Martin (ARGGY), explains why they simply had to debut their newest supercar here.

Aston Martin Valkyrie (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
Aston Martin Valkyrie (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

“If you are in the ultra-luxury business, [Pebble Beach] is the place,” Moers said from the Club House’s lavish outdoor hospitality area. “The Valkyrie Spider - this is the place to unveil it. Reaction from the customers has been unbelievable - and we are working through the [wait] lists... and the car is sold out.”

That’s right — we are talking about a car that will start at $3.8 million, and all 85 units are sold out. So if you want the NEXT Aston Martin supercar, you better get on the waitlist.

Some manufacturers were looking beyond the present, and into the future. Audi (VWAGY) dropped the hammer with its space-aged skysphere electric concept car, one that can actually extend its wheelbase, giving the driver and passenger a luxurious, grand touring feel in autonomous and long distance cruising mode, but then can shrink and become smaller, for more spirited, hands-on-the-wheel driving.

Audi skysphere concept (Credit: Audi)
Audi skysphere concept (Credit: Audi)

Why is that important? Because choice is what’s appealing to the Pebble Beach crowd.

“[Luxury] means being able to choose whether you want to be autonomous, whether you want to drive yourself, and whether you want to have either experience,” says Mark Dahncke, Director of Communications at Audi of America.

Which then brings me to my next topic at Monterey Car Week...

Electrification

Yes, Audi’s new skysphere concept is all-electric, which let’s face it for a future looking vehicle, electric it has to be. But even at the ritzy, old-school car-loving Quail event the Friday before the Concours, electric cars appeared in full force, even though it seems traditional Quail attendees still want the sound, energy, and excitement that combustion engines provide.

One of the more well trafficked stands was Rimac, the Croatian electric supercar company that now co-owns Bugatti, along with Porsche (POAHY). Rimac brought the Nevera electric hypercar to the Quail, an EV that produces nearly 2,000 horsepower. That is not a typo.

Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg is using electrification in its latest hypercar, but with hybrid technology. The small displacement engine in the Gemera is aided by 3 electric motors, which combine to produce an astronomical 1,703 horsepower and 2,581 lb-ft of torque, but also producing a range of nearly 600 miles. Pretty impressive even for a super sports car.

“Here we’re taking it to the next level, 4 seats, 4-wheel drive, smaller combustion engine, bigger electrification,” founder Christian von Koenigsegg said in an interview at the Quail.

Christian von Koenigsegg at the Quail (Credit: Koenigsegg)
Christian von Koenigsegg at the Quail (Credit: Koenigsegg)

Koenigsegg is also keen on biofuels too. “We want to push the idea of [biofuels], because I think it’s a good complement to electrification,” he said. For Koenigsegg, a hybrid powered by biofuels is the best of both worlds — you get to have fun and "go green" at the same time.

“Electrification needs all this infrastructure, you need to fight for cobalt and [battery] cells, so I think for the environment and for the lightness of sports cars to make them more efficient, and for the fun and sounds, combining it with hybrid drive and direct drive, there’s a good play to have the combustion engine for that reason.”

And that Lamborghini Countach? Well that’s a hybrid too, and clients actually are keen on it too.

“In the U.S., Lamborghini customers well understand the benefits of adding electric motors to already powerful internal combustion engines,” Andrea Baldi, Lamborghini North America CEO said in an interview on Yahoo Finance Live. “We anticipate higher demand for Lamborghini models that are more powerful. For example, Sian and Countach are the fastest B12 models in Lamborghini history, they were sold out even before being publicly announced - and they are both hybrids.”

Aston Martin’s Tobias Moers is also keen on electrification and hybrid tech, noting that the Valkyrie’s supercar cousin, the Valhalla, is a plug-in hybrid, and that Aston’s electric ambitions don’t end there. This is where Aston’s partnership with Mercedes Benz (DDAIF) is paying dividends.

“As a company the size of Aston Martin, you need someone to lean on when it comes to the electrical backbone of a car,” Moers said. “You cannot create your own electrical architecture, it costs a lot of money, and can be an unforeseeable journey sometimes.”

Moers plans to use the company’s capex to differentiate its future electric models from its rivals from an Aston Martin brand perspective, but lean on Mercedes’ electric powertrain tech in order to stay competitive.

RUF CTR Anniversary (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
RUF CTR Anniversary (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

Finally some boutique, ultra-low quantity manufacturers like RUF have done the electric plunge in the past, but now are sticking with internal combustion at the time being. Twelve years ago RUF, led by the legendary Porsche fanatic Alois Ruf, worked with German industrials giant Siemens (SIEGY) to produce a small quantity of electric RUFs called the eRuf Model A, using a 911 body.

Ruf said they built around 15 cars, which had a range of around 300 kilometers. While a big feat back over decade ago, the cars didn’t have the performance Ruf, or his clients, wanted. “We have established our niche with combustion engines now, and we see the electric car as something for the big boys,” Ruf said.

Perhaps Alois Ruf is right, and even Tobias Moers is saying a similar thing. Electric, for now, is for the big boys — but those times could be changing. The bigger question is do the Pebble Beach and Monterey Car Week denizens want those EV powertrains in their ultra-exclusive, experience is everything, dream machines. 

——

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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