Hagerty opens European office

TRAVERSE CITY – It was hardly by accident that Hagerty Collector Network opened their new five-person European office in April.

Rather, months of meticulous research showed that the British car collector market was ripe for the kind of specialized insurance services the privately-held company offers.

"We've known for a while that the car collector culture was similar to that in the U.S.," said Greg Stropes, vice president of business development. "The passion and relationship they have with their vehicles is high."

It's not just merry old England the insurer has in its sights. Though Stropes would not confirm the exact locations, countries like Germany, Italy, Spain, and France "are all being researched at this time," he said.

"Right now we're just writing business in the U.K., but we are getting interest from other countries," he said. "The biggest hurdle is getting through the research of the culture, the competition, pricing, and service expectations."

Since the U.K. office opened, sales have been going "quite well," said Stropes, who would not release sales numbers.

"We are writing higher premiums on higher end vehicles whose owners were already familiar with the Hagerty name from various car collector events," he said. "We are very close to our projections."

The office is located in the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire, England, home of the British Grand Prix and the British motor racing industry-another deliberate move on part of the company.

"The U.K. is a race and rally culture, different from the U.S. whose reputation is more of a 'park and polish' collector culture," said Stropes. "Americans tend to be more fanatical about waxing, but the British take good care of their cars, too."

In addition to their European venture, the company-whose annual sales are $100 million according to competitor estimates-is branching out into smaller ventures as well, all focused on specialty services for the collector, said Stropes.

"It defines what we do and what we don't do," he said.

Client demand is driving the business model of the 325-employee company, which is expanding its services to include automotive memorabilia, cargo insurance, overseas touring coverage, and collector car financing.

"Our employees are great listeners-we listen to what the customers want and we deliver on those demands," said Stropes.

Because of what Stropes says is Hagerty's "deep understanding" of the collector car market, the company also recently launched a financial services arm to accommodate the collector who would like to finance a purchase up to $1 million.

"Collector cars appreciate in value, but people have difficulty getting financing because banks aren't quite sure what to do," said Stropes. "When somebody calls and says, 'I would like to buy a 38 year-old car for $60,000,' we understand that." BN