Auto Trader reports that they’ve seen a 120% spike in searches for people interested in buying a “Chevy convertible Corvette” since the May release of the Barbie trailer.This isn’t super surprising. If you thought you had zero interest in seeing the Barbie movie when it was first announced, by this point in time, the marketing masterminds behind the flick have surely broken you. We, the public, don’t want to see Barbie — we feel compelled to see Barbie.
But whether or not we all truly want to roll up to the theater in a pink ‘Vette, this dream car search trend is part of a much larger one. Looking at data from car auction sites and social media reveals an indisputable truth: In an age where we are basically driving around computers on wheels, more and more people yearn to go back to the basics. In short, vintage cars are hot.
“In the summer months, you always see an interest in classic cars,” says McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance Agency. “It seems to go with movies, TV and every manner of media that shows that idealized view of summer which is going out to the beach or going out for a drive to do something fun outside. And this summer is hotter than most for the vintage marketplace.”
And while the cars drivers want are getting older, the folks behind the wheels are getting younger. “We’re seeing a real shift away from the baby boomer generation to the next generations being interested in cars,” notes Hagerty. “Specifically, cool-looking cars that are fun to drive like convertibles and vintage off-road vehicles.”
Entrepreneur spoke with Hagerty about the bright future of cool old cars on a recent call. Here are highlights of that conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.
It’s not about a need for speed
“Driving a vintage car is one of the slow hobbies. It’s like like gardening. It’s about getting outside and doing things with your hands and getting a little dirty. It’s not about being more digitally connected during your commute. This is about enjoying beautiful country roads and road-tripping in a car that sometimes challenges you to slow down to its pace rather than something that’s so technologically advanced, right? In modern cars, you’re plugged in and you’re just kind of living your office life behind the wheel. But with a vintage car, you’re escaping that. You’re just driving somewhere because you’re so connected to the car and its history.”
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Car collectors don’t have to be millionaires
“My parents started this company and next year we celebrate our 40th anniversary of being in the specialty vehicle space. In the earliest days, we didn’t really know how big the car world was. It wasn’t until we got much better sources of data that we began to understand the magnitude of it. There are tens of millions of car enthusiasts in North America alone who have these types of vehicles. And it’s not just really old cars or really big and fancy ones. There are people who love their Mazda Miata, which is a great little two-seater convertible that is relatively affordable, very reliable and a lot of fun to drive. I bought my first vintage car, a 1967 Porsche 911, when I was 13. It was $500! I bought it with the money I made mowing lawns and have it to this day. Again, it’s not about buying the fanciest thing possible, it’s about buying what you can afford and pouring your time and passion into it. My dad didn’t go to sports events or fancy dinners — when he wasn’t working, he was in the garage restoring cars and with me and my sisters at his side.”
Every car is a future classic car
“We call this the J curve. When you buy a new car, it depreciates immediately and it kind of hits some sort of bottom. And then if it survives that period of time, it’ll start going back up in value and eventually reaches its original purchase price. And then the really good cars keep going up from there. It’s kind of fun stuff to watch and see what triggers that later growth. Usually, you’ll see a car in a movie or a celebrity will own one and post about it on social media. Like right now, suddenly everybody’s got to have a vintage Broncos. They are just red hot and they weren’t 10 years ago or 15 years ago.”
Related: How Maserati Recharged Its Brand
Driving a brand
“Hagerty started in the vehicle insurance business and then we got into being a membership organization and then media and entertainment and events, and now we have a marketplace with both digital and in-person auctions. We’re not a big acquisitive company when we think about growth. There are many opportunities, but I try to be mindful of this idea in business that you’re often defined more by the times you say no than the times you say yes. The smartest businesses don’t chase rainbows. And so for me, I focus on customer experience. We’ll only get into things that we feel we can really upgrade or deliver a high customer experience. Sometimes you have opportunities that would be easy to make money on, but unless we can deliver that high customer experience, we tend to say no. So if we turn our back on an easy financial win because we enjoy being well-regarded in the car space? That’s alright. That’s just our jam.”