Proposed tariffs on cars could negatively impact vintage car industry

ST. LOUIS - The Trump administration has proposed a plan that would increase the import tax for autos and automotive parts tenfold. A vintage car dealer from the St. Louis area said this kind of increase could have a major negative impact on his business, so he took his concerns to Washington D.C.

Mark Hyman, owner of Hyman Ltd. Classic Cars in Maryland Heights, spoke last Thursday (July 19) before the U.S. Commerce Department along with representatives from the industry who manufacture parts and new cars, as well as others with a stake in the supply chain.

“My presentation was we did a lot of research on the size of the vintage car industry which we figure is about $180 billion business a year,” said Hyman.

Hymans Ltd. Classic Cars carries a variety of high end, unusual, rare and valuable vehicles. The showroom features Delahayes, Bugattis, Mercedes, Maseratis and Lamborghinis to name a few.

Hyman said his business sells 250 to 300 cars annually, and only an estimated 10 percent of that is local. He said the classic car market knows no boundaries.

After tariffs were recently put on aluminum and steel, Hyman began to hear rumors swirling about possible tariffs being placed on the auto industry. The proposal would increase the tax on imported autos and automotive parts from 2.5 percent to 25 percent.

“Most of the cars that we import from overseas are a million dollars plus," Hyman said. "Now, a million-dollar car costs me $1,250,000. That hurts, and that basically stops the business as we know it.”

Hyman also worries about retaliatory tariffs from other countries. Scott Brandt with Moto Exotica Classic Cars in Fenton said 25 percent of his business selling high end, special interest and an exotic vehicle is overseas exports. Retaliatory tariffs could end his export operations.

“Next thing you know, they’re going to say, ‘Well, by the time I add this on, and the shipping on, duties in my own country, and freight handling, etc.,’ it becomes a little bit more cumbersome for them as well as costly," said Brandt. "I think they’re just going to go, ‘Maybe I’ll find something local or just opt for something totally different altogether.’”

Both Hyman and Brandt stress that it is not just the vintage car market that will be impacted. Many American made cars contain parts manufactured in other countries. The tax increase will trickle down, and it will ultimately be the customer who has to foot the bill.

Hyman is confident his message was heard by the Commerce Department, and he hopes that if tariffs are imposed on the auto industry, there will be an exemption for those in the vintage market.