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

This closeness is mutually beneficial. With million-dollar cars, sales are often driven by relationships and access. Being present at a manufacturer’s invitation-only unveiling at Pebble Beach provides an opportunity for clients and potential buyers to hobnob with executives and designers, nudging a decision they’re already inclined to make, or pushing them over the signing line.

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

These relationships provide a quantifiable return on investment. At the last Car Week, in 2019, Bentley brought 100 new cars to lend their attendees, and to chauffeur them to events. “We offered those cars to all 500 customers who came, if anyone wanted to buy them, and we had people fighting over them,” Mr. Hallmark said. “I think we sold about 80.” For a brand that sells fewer than 3,000 cars in the Americas a year, whose least expensive vehicle starts at $165,000, that’s a pretty solid week. Aston Martin’s Car Week sales are “in a similar ballpark,” Mr. Moers said. “Maybe even higher.”

When I was a boy in Detroit, in the 1970s and ’80s, the treasures of 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 to a concours?

“Social media, that’s the most important thing,” Mr. Moers said. “You get engaged with the kids there.” He added, “There are concerns that with Instagram, you’re maybe not going to reach your potential customers. But probably with the prospects, the customers for the next generation.”

To generate sales and not just interest will take more than some social media posts. “I think it will be a much more intimate, relationship-oriented purchase, 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 make a significant expenditure, so you’ll test-drive the car in person. But the brands will come to the customer. This kind of concierge service is going to expand further and further.”

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

Nina Zatulini

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