Selling Hot New Cars at Pebble Beach, the Land of the Classics

This closeness is mutually beneficial. With million-dollar cars, sales are often driven by relationships and access. Attending a manufacturer’s invitation-only unveiling at Pebble Beach gives customers and potential buyers the opportunity to hang out with executives and designers about what they’re already keen to do, or push them over the signing line.

“We have eight or nine sales people here, and these people know the customers, and the customers appreciate that,” Mr. Morse said. “They are able to talk to their representative sales person from Aston Martin. And they know them. They have a relationship.”

These relationships provide quantitative return on investment. Last Car Week, in 2019, Bentley brought in 100 new cars to lend to its attendees, and to make them drivers for events. “We offered those cars to all 500 customers whoever wanted to buy them, and we had people fighting for them,” Mr Hallmark said. “I think we sold about 80.” For a brand that sells less than 3,000 cars annually in the US, with its least expensive vehicle starting at $165,000, it’s a pretty solid week. Aston Martin’s Car Week sales are “in a similar ballpark,” Mr Morse said. “Maybe even more.”

When I was a boy in Detroit, in the 1970s and ’80s, treasures from the Detroit Auto Show were found in the basement of Cobo Hall. But will access to dream cars eventually be limited to those who can already afford a $500 ticket for a Conqueror?

“Social media, that’s the most important thing,” said Mr. Moores. “You get engaged with the kids there.” He continued, “There are concerns that with Instagram, you might not be able to reach your potential customers. But maybe with prospects, the customers for the next generation.”

To generate sales and not just interest will take more than a few social media posts. “I think it will be a lot more intimate, relationship-oriented shopping, especially at the high end,” Mr Pedraza said. “You’ll see the cars online, you’ll engage in augmented reality or virtual reality experiences. You’re going to have a significant expense, so you’ll be testing the car in person. But the brands will come to the customer. That’s kind of concierge service. going to expand further.”

Nearly a dozen high-end automakers unveiled concept and production-ready vehicles at Pebble Beach. Here are some highlights.

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