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A career in the automotive industry was a done deal for Akashdeep Singh since childhood, as the industrious young lad was famous among his classmates for creating and distributing his hand-written automotive magazines in school. But it wasn’t publishing that was his future: it was classic cars, a business he now runs in his hometown of Ipoh.

While one might think that the Klang Valley is the center of the classic car community in Peninsular Malaysia – and this assumption is indeed correct – it fails to take into account the number of collectors who live further afield and whose needs are not fully taken into account. .

“Initially, we only served the Klang Valley market, but we started to attract many customers from the North, such as Alor Setar and Penang. Ipoh is in the middle, which makes it a very strategic location. Also, I’m a boy from Ipoh, so I was eager to get home and open a shop,” says Akashdeep, Founder of Akash Classics Malaysia. Last May, he moved his business from KL to Ipoh and the sales figures proved the wisdom of his decision: he sold 64 cars, which equates to about five cars per month.

“It was not just an attraction of Ipoh, but a push,” he explains. “There are 12 registered classic car dealerships in KL including me but none in the northern region! I think we have created a huge impact as we have sold a number of cars. nine more — we’re busy! It’s a niche business and people come to us. Classic cars are rare and people don’t find them easily, so they’ll seek out a trusted dealership and drive there faithfully.

There is a strict classification system in the industry. Cars over 25 years old are considered classics, those over 45 years old are called antiques, and anything made between 1919 and 1930 is vintage, and also known as pre-war cars. The brand doesn’t matter as much as its age and condition, but that doesn’t mean you can expect your old Datsun 130Y to sell in the hundreds of thousands of ringgits – generally speaking, Continental cars are favored and score extra points if they were produced in limited numbers, pioneered new technology or raised the bar of consumer expectations.

For example, the most expensive car in Akashdeep’s arsenal is now a Mercedes W140 Pullman available for RM400,000 – only eight are available in Malaysia, and two are owned by him and an associate, with the other six being in private collections. A racing history adds to a vehicle’s appeal and previous celebrity ownership also helps, especially if the individual is associated with cars, such as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman or Ayrton Senna.

As a general rule, if teenagers once had a photo or poster of a particular car taped to their wall, you are looking in the right direction. When these children grow up, they want to buy the things that made them happy in their youth. To cite another example, Akashdeep sells a JDM Mazda RX7 – similar to those used in the fast furious deductible – for RM300,000. The rare non-Continental car is considered an investable classic.

And classic cars are definitely investable – if you can afford to play the game, the profits are yours. According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, the value of luxury goods has increased by 129% over the past 10 years. Classic cars, rare whiskey, handbags and wine all saw increases in value of over 100% over the same period. After rare whiskey, whose value has increased by 478% in 10 years, classic cars have seen a variation of 6% over 12 months and 193% over the last decade.

Thanks to rising global wealth seeking a limited number of vehicles, the classic car market has outperformed collectibles like coins and stamps, sometimes even beating the broad stock market index. Over the past couple of years, that has proven true for Akashdeep and his contemporaries as several sellers returned their classic cars for quick cash, while those who benefited from the pandemic had additional funds to invest and invest in classic cars.

“The MCO was actually really good for me,” says Akashdeep. “While it’s unfortunate that some people have been forced to sell their cars, it’s a good thing that they were able to liquidate this asset so quickly and have the funds in hand. On the other hand, cash-strapped collectors were eager to consolidate their own personal collections. In fact, the industry has grown a lot in the past two years! »

Currently, Akashdeep has a total of 37 cars for sale in their dealership. Prices range from RM400,000 for the Pullman and RM288,000 for its oldest car, a 1927 Austin 7, up to RM30,000 for the classic Mini Cooper and RM40,000 for a BMW Z3. The profit margin on each sale depends on the car and is naturally a closely guarded secret. “It’s like a chef who gives away all his recipes,” he jokes. “Some details we just don’t release to the public but usually they don’t mind that part so much – buyers just want to know what condition the car is in, and since we’ve had a great reputation for the last 13 years in the business, our customers trust our judgement. We would never sell a car in which we do not believe 100%.”

According to Akashdeep, maintenance remains a challenge in its industry – parts are hard to find and often expensive, and there is always the worry of technical control. “Classic cars are fragile things and the biggest challenge will be taking care of them,” he warns. “But it’s not impossible, of course. Parts can be shipped from the UK. Bangkok has become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aftermarket parts for classic cars, and we are also seeing growth in China. Basically, as the demand grows and the industry thrives, there will be support. If you own a classic car, all you have to do is be aware of the maintenance challenge and work around it, that’s it.

When asked for advice on how to turn your new car into a classic one day to invest in, Akash has one advice: “Don’t change anything. Vintage car enthusiasts want to see everything in their original condition, so make sure you don’t change anything and care for your car obsessively because you want it to really last.

Akashdeep doesn’t reveal too much of his business model, but he does share some insights into how things work. In order to get collectible cars to trade, he has agents who scour garages across the country looking for any finds. Once negotiations are complete and the car’s ownership changes, Akashdeep hosts live previews on social media and buyers lock in their interest – most deals are done without the new owner having physically seen the car. No appointments are allowed in his dealership in Ipoh, visits are only by prior appointment.

“Most of our cars are locally sourced, up to 90% – from where I can’t say. Many come from hidden places because owners and collectors who know their value keep them hidden,” shares “We also get stock from the UK, but that’s not very often.”

Malaysia has a good regional reputation for the classic car trade – Asia’s biggest collector is based here – but some issues are hampering its future growth, according to Akashdeep. First and foremost is supply, because “we need more cars to grow the business. Right now, there aren’t many. The cars we are allowed to bring in must be 35 years or older which is antique so we miss a bit of the classic car segment.

“Secondly, and this is the biggest problem, is financing – at the moment the whole industry operates in cash, because no bank will give a loan for the purchase of a classic car Not everyone is cash rich which also shuts down a huge middle class market If they at some point had access to bank loans so they could buy classic cars it would really cause a push in the industry – and that’s a good thing! We need more cars and more players, so we need policy changes to make that happen.

Despite multiple calls for him to join the automotive industry, Akashdeep insists on staying where he is – classic cars are a calling, he laughs. After trying his hand at many other ventures – including licensed money lending – he says it’s impossible to replicate the rush to find a new classic car and pass it on to its new owner.

“I remember the first classic car I bought was a Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL, for RM3,000, which I quickly sold for RM6,000 – it made me realize there was more in this company than it seems”, he smiles. . “New cars are great, don’t get me wrong, but you lose value the minute you sign the papers. With a well-maintained classic car, the value only goes up.

For more information, visit Akash Classics Malaysia on Facebook here.

This article was first published on May 9, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.

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