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Not many sites around the world start out from day one as “global sites”. More often sites start out with a country, or even a regional focus, and then slowly develop into national and international platforms.

If your focus is on big-ticket collectors’ items, which many treat as investment objects, then your market is global and you can consider “going global” on day one.

Christian Plagemann, co-MD responsible for sales, customer support and cooperation (LinkedIn)

Christian Plagemann, co-MD responsible for sales, customer support and cooperation (LinkedIn)

That is what the founder team of Classic-Trader.com in Berlin did in June this year – it launched as a global platform for vintage vehicles, boats and aircraft. Included under vehicles are autos, motorcycles, tractors, trucks and trailers.

Torsten Claus, co-managing director of Classic-Trader.com (LinkedIn)

Torsten Claus, co-MD of Classic-Trader.com (LinkedIn)

From day one the site was available in three languages – French, German and English. But, it launched in June (after a 9-month beta test) with only classic autos. The other vehicle types, boats and aircraft will go live soon, the visitor reads on the site. Two months after its launch, it now has 700 classic autos listed.

Classic-Trader.com has a number of competitors around the world – to put it mildly. In Germany the main competitors are Carsablanca.de (11,453 listed classics), Mobile.de/Oldtimer (with 6,780 listed “oldtimers”), Oldtimer-markt.de (2,504 listings of which 2,319 were listed in Germany), and Klassikmarkt-autobild.de (500 listings).

The chart below (source is SimilarWeb.com; desktop visits only) shows strong growth for Classic-Trader.com since its launch in June, but also that the gap to the leaders in Germany is still huge. (Note: Mobile.de/oldtimer not shown separately by SimilarWeb.com.)

It should be noted, however, that Classic-Trader.com is the only German-based site treating the auto classics market as a global one. That’s a significant differentiator – the above competitors all only focus on Germany.

“Our platform turns classics into a global market. In the past buyers had to consult many sites and sources to get a feel for prices. We make the single market transparent. Information on, for instance, auto prices, maintenance cost and delivery options is now available from a single site,” said Tim Westermann, communications manager.

oldtimer chart2


From the supply side, Classic-Trader.com has gone some way towards developing into an international site. According to Westermann, 35 percent of all listings already originate outside Germany – and the percentage is rising.

On the demand side (the audience), the situation was just as “global”. According to SimilarWeb 64 percent of desktop visits came from Germany in the six months to July. The rest came from the U.S. (19 percent), Switzerland (8 percent), U.K. (5 percent), and four countries which shared 4 percent among them (France, Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium).

In Germany a classic, or “oldtimer” is at least 30 years old. What qualifies as a classic or vintage auto is, however, not explained clearly on Classic-Trader.com – probably because definitions differ between countries.

We couldn’t get clarity on the capital suppliers and owners of Classic-Trader.com. All that is known, is that Torsten Claus, Timo Joost, and Christian Plagemann (photos) are the co-founders and co-managing directors. Plagemann and other senior managers spent time at Mobile.de and EBay, before joining Classic-Trader.com (Plagemann’s LinkedIn profile).

Clearly, this is an ambitious project, which will take a while to develop into a global marketplace. All KPIs are developing positively, said Westermann. “In the first month after launch listings jumped 500 percent, registered sellers grew 300 percent, page views grew 650 percent and visitors rose 500 percent,” he said. (Naturally, growth was calculated from a low base.) New staff members are being appointed at the Berlin HQ, which is the only office “for now”.

Timo Joost, co-MD responsible for marketing, public relations and product development (LinkedIn)

Timo Joost, co-MD responsible for marketing, public relations and product development (LinkedIn)

The business model?

Private and professional sellers register free, and then test the site at no cost for 60 days. (Private sellers have until end-October to test free.) A listing may include a video and up to 100 photos.

Professional traders start paying for listings after 60 days. The rate per listing rises with the asking price of the auto and drops as the number of listings in a 30-day period grows (Rate table here). All in all, the rates are very reasonable. A single listing costs the professional trader €2.50 for 30 days when the asking price is below €2,501; the maximum rate is reached at an asking price of €105,001 when the listing fee is €40.

The price list for private sellers isn’t on the site yet, but Westermann said rates will take their cue from the rates above.

Professional traders get their own profile pages; they list easily with the so-called “listing wizard” and translate their listings into German, French and/or English with a single click. Included in the price for professional traders is an entry in the international dealer directory.

Sellers communicate per e-mail with potential buyers that have previously been verified by the site. Each seller has a message centre, where his e-mail communication is archived.

Christo Volschenk