The French collector vehicle market showed remarkable resilience in 2020 despite the crisis, posting a modest 13% decline, with a significant proportion of transactions taking place before the confinements (71% of sales realized in January and February). Specialist auction houses such as RM Sotheby's, Bonham's and Artcurial dominate the market. Although Artcurial is the only major French auction house among them, the national market could suffer a setback if the activities of British auction houses Sotheby's and Bonham's are not accounted for in France by 2021.

Resilience of the French collector car auction market against a backdrop of uncertainty

The French collector car auction market has shown remarkable resilience in times of crisis, overcoming the economic uncertainties of recent years with considerable robustness.

The market remained concentrated around three major auction houses that established a strong presence. RM Sotheby's, Bonham's and Artcurial lead the pack, the latter being a proud French competitor amidst its British counterparts. Even during the pandemic, their dominant market position remained stable, accounting for around 85-95% of the market in the country, indicating little change from the previous year.

going forward, the French market landscape may present a different picture, particularly with online sales considerations from British auction houses that may not be registered in France following the Brexit. Nevertheless, Artcurial, the leading French player, is likely to remain firmly established in the domestic market.

Quantifying the French collector car auction market on the basis of the data provided, we can deduce that the overall value of the collector car sales market via auction houses is approximately between €320 and €400 million. This estimate assumes that the proportion of classic cars sold through the major auction houses remains the same as before, at around 20-25%.

Moreover, the classic car market is not limited to vehicle sales alone. Collectors also spend considerable sums on their most prized possessions. If we take into account what collectors spend each year on their vehicles, the total value of the market could be in the region of 4.3 to 5.5 billion euros, if we consider the number of collectors multiplied by the average annual expenditure per collector.

RM Sotheby's, Bonhams and Artcurial

Collector car sales in France are dominated by three illustrious auction houses: RM Sotheby's, Bonhams and Artcurial. These prestigious players have established themselves as benchmarks in the classic and rare car auction sector, underlining their expertise and influence on the national and international market.

  • RM Sotheby's, a British company, is renowned for its specialization in particularly high-end collector cars. It is an auction house with a worldwide reputation for its catalog of exceptional pieces and for organizing auction events that attract collectors from all over the world. Its sales are marked by the presence of rare vehicles and iconic models, prized by a demanding and passionate clientele.

  • Bonhams, also based in the UK, has a wealth of experience in the sale of classic and collectible vehicles. Bonhams combines tradition and expertise in the auction world, offering classic automobiles as well as valuable motorcycles and automobilia. It is the diversity of its sales and the rarity of certain lots that contribute to the prestige of this house.

  • Artcurial, the French auction house par excellence in the classic car segment, has established itself as a major player in the national market. With its strong cultural identity and in-depth knowledge of the French market, Artcurial has built its reputation by organizing auctions that regularly make the headlines in the specialized media. With an approach that combines passion and knowledge of the French art of living, Artcurial appeals to a local and international public in search of pieces with a rich history, often linked to France's automotive heritage.

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Summary and extracts

1 Synthèse du marché

1.1 Définition et périmètre de l'étude

En France, pour être catégorisé comme étant "de collection", un véhicule doit être âgé de plus de 30 ans, ne plus être en production et ses caractéristiques doivent être restées inchangées. Cette étude traite de la vente ainsi que de l'entretien et rénovation de voitures de collection. Souvent vendues aux enchères, les voitures de collection sont prisées à la fois par les passionnés et par les investisseurs, qui y voient un potentiel profit. De fait, nombreux sont les exemples de voitures de collection achetées, rénovées puis revendues à des prix bien supérieurs aux prix d'achat. 

Le marché des voitures de collection est très particulier dans la mesure où la valeur des véhicules est fixée par un nombre relativement faible de demandeurs. Cependant, le principe de rareté y est essentiel : en règle générale, plus un modèle ou une couleur est rare, plus le prix du véhicule est élevé (à condition que le véhicule soit en bon état). Aujourd'hui, en plus des véhicules de plus de 30 ans, de nouveaux véhicules attirent l'attention des collectionneurs :  les "Young Timers". Ces modèles, issus des années 1980-1990, ont la cote en ce moment, leur valeur augmentant avec l'arrivée de jeunes collectionneurs. 

S'il s'agit certes d'un marché lié par nature au passé, on peut cependant s'attendre à de nombreux changements liés aux différentes normes écologiques mises en application, mais aussi aux nouvelles technologies (comme l'imprimante 3D) et à la digitalisation des points de vente. Si les voitures de collection ont traditionnellement été attachées aux ventes aux enchères, les collectionneurs se tournent de plus en plus vers des sites spécialisés regroupant des offres provenant du monde entier afin de trouver les achats les plus intéressants. 

En 2020, ce sont quelques 230 000 propriétaires qui ont le privilège de faire vivre et prospérer 800 000 véhicules anciens en France.

List of charts

  • Marché français des voitures de collection
  • Répartition du parc automobile français
  • Véhicules de collection
  • Taille de marché mondial des voitures de collection
  • Revenus annuels moyens des ménages français propriétaires de véhicules de collection
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Latest news

Artcurial wins out over Christie's and Sotheby's - 08/08/2023
  • Artcurial was founded in 2002 and became the third-largest player in the French art market in 2005.
  • In 2022, Artcurial achieved record sales of €216.5 million.
  • Arqana, a racehorse auctioneer affiliated to Artcurial, achieved a sales volume of 225 million euros and sold almost 5,000 horses in 2022.
  • It ranks second in the European market.
  • Artcurial set up operations in Monaco in 2015, Morocco in 2019 and Switzerland in 2022.
  • Artcurial also owns the John Taylor real estate group, acquired in 2017, with a portfolio of 6,000 properties worth €16 billion.
  • The Artcurial group's consolidated sales in 2022 were €1.6 billion, making it one of Europe's leading intermediaries for exceptional properties.
Art: how auction houses compete in the middle market - 12/07/2022
  • Bonhams aims to consolidate the mid-range segment
  • Bonhams has 14 auction rooms (London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, etc.) and experts in some sixty sectors
  • Purchases from well-known houses in their respective countries, such as Bukowskis in Sweden, Bruun Rasmussen in Denmark or Cornette de Saint Cyr in France.
The art market is in turmoil: England's Bonhams has just acquired France's Cornette de Saint Cyr. - 28/06/2022
  • In 2022, Bonhams acquired the French institution founded in 1973.
  • It has offices in Paris and Brussels.
  • Since its takeover by the Epiris fund in 2018, Bonhams has been shopping in Europe and the United States.
  • 31.8 million in sales in 2021, ranking 10th in France.
  • Fierce competition and the costs generated by this exceptional Parisian location have eroded margins.

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