Scottsdale car auction posts first decline since 2010

The nation's largest car auction posted its first sales decline since 2010, with sales of everything from muscle cars to vintage European racers beginning to slow.

The auction sales in Scottsdale, Arizona — the largest auto auction in the U.S. by volume — totaled $251 million compared to $294 million last year. The 15 percent decline was the first drop in total sales since 2010, after the financial crisis. The price of an average sale also fell, declining 13 percent to $100,588 from $115,729 last year.

1965 Shelby 289 Cobra Roadster at the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Source: Barrett-Jackson
1965 Shelby 289 Cobra Roadster at the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Hagerty, a collectible-car insurance company, said this year's auction featured fewer top-tier cars than last year, when a prized group of vehicles from the Ron Pratte collection boosted sales totals. What's more, competing auctions in other parts of the country in the first half of the year may have diverted sales from Scottsdale. Sales at the recent Mecum auction in Kissimmee Florida, for instance, were strong, according to Hagerty.

Still, overall collectible-car sales in January were down this year, offering the latest sign that weakness in the stock market and global economy may be weighing on the collectibles boom.

Falling oil prices may also have dragged down results. Collectible-car experts say many of the buyers in Scottsdale in recent years were oil and gas workers who had extra spending money and were willing to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for a 1960s Impala or 1970s Dodge Charger. With oil prices trading just above $30 a barrel, the sector has seen job cuts and downsizing, and many of those buyers weren't spending this year.

"It was a big question going into this auction whether the buyers from the energy sector would be there," said McKeel Hagerty, CEO and president of Hagerty. "A lot of these guys were flush with cash and that helped drive sales."

Not only were overall sales down, but 20 percent of the cars up for auction in Scottsdale failed to sell.

There were some bright spots: a 1962 Dodge M37B1 Power Wagon Pickup went for $187,000 at Barrett-Jackson. Low-mile American-built cars from the late 1970s and early 1980s also did well. A 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am sold for $187,000.

Corvettes remain a favorite of the muscle car crowd in Scottsdale. A 1955 Corvette Roadster sold for $605,000, while a 1969 Corvette L88 convertible went for $577,500.

Yet there was an oversupply of some models that have seen big price run-ups in recent years. The number of 1963-73 Porsche 911s went up by 66 percent this year from last, and their average sale price decreased by 20 percent. The number of Ford GTs doubled from last year and prices fell 8 percent, according to Hagerty.

Half of the top 10 sellers by price were Ferraris, and all but one were European cars. Here is a look at those sales, which include auction fees.