High-end car market speeds past ’08 economic crash

They’re exclusive. They’re expensive. And they’re accelerating off showroom floors.

Since taking a beating in the financial meltdown of 2008, the top-end of the car market in the GTA is back in top gear, says Steven Pavan, a sales consultant at Grand Touring Automobiles.

“Sales are good, are getting better and will probably never stop,” he said.

Separated from automotive dreamers by waist-high barriers, the Aston Martin One-77 and Bugatti Veyron were two of the crown jewels at this year’s Canadian International Autoshow, which wrapped up yesterday.

“Both the Aston and the Veyron are more than just cars,” Pavan said. “They’re automotive art. They evoke emotion.”

Outshining the hundreds of other cars on display at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the rare supercars, priced in the millions, drew much fanfare at the Auto Exotica exhibit, despite the show’s clear emphasis on small and alternative-fuel vehicles.

The attention they received, Pavan said, is a sign of an improving economy.

“Let’s say you’re a CEO of a company and every day had a positive outlook like the one before,” he said. “When the meltdown happened in 2008, that confidence wasn’t there. You couldn’t spend money on indiscretionary expenses, like a $500,000 sports car.

“As the world is starting to make sense again, you begin to move forward,” Pavan said. “You can start buying these types of cars again.”

In addition to supercars, performance upgrades also attracted attention at the Auto Exotica exhibit.

The tuning branch of Pfaff Motors, a high-end Woodbridge-based dealer, specializes in upgrades to German brands, such as Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche.

Pfaff’s Erik Morrison, a Porsche fanatic, said personalization is what drives people to tune their cars.

“They want something different than the next guy,” he said. “Most people go for suspension and performance upgrades, [and] wheels and tires are a big part of our business, too.

“Obviously some people go for big performance, but it’s personalization more than anything.”

Along with a modified Audi A7, a McLaren MP4-12C and a Porsche 911, the Pfaff booth at the Autoshow featured a Porsche Cayenne owned by a Pfaff customer. The SUV boasted more than $80,000 in upgrades.

“People see the cars we have on display, like the Porsche Cayenne, and get an idea the extent of the work we can do,” Morrison said.

Like Pavan, Morrison said he saw spending shrink when the economy took a hit in 2008 but added the road ahead looks smooth.

“There was a little bit of a drop initially when people started to take it easy,” he said. “But the customers we deal with are people who will always have this kind of money. Just like the person that spends $160,000 on a Cayenne Turbo and another $80,000 on upgrades.”