A few days ago, an interesting, and expensive case of buyer's remorse has spilled over into a lawsuit, emerging from the purchase of rather unique, and collectable automobile. While I ponder upon the intricacies of this particular case myself, which I shall embellish you with my thoughts here, I would like you, the reader, to perhaps take this case as a lesson towards making smart purchases.
The situation - a wealthy billionaire has filed a lawsuit against an auctioneer for misrepresentation, purportedly after spending over half a million dollars on a vintage neunelfer, which concerned the dubious originality and poor condition of the car.
Now, the key point to review here, is that the wealthy billionaire had not inspected the car prior to making the purchase, either personally, or by sending over a trusted specialist.
Credits to: GIPHY
Inspecting the case
Before we start forming opinions, we should know the facts surrounding the case. First, the billionaire in question is Mr. Andreas Pohl, the CEO of Deutsche Vermögensberatung AG (DVAG) - one of Germany's largest insurance companies. According to Forbes, Mr. Pohl has a net worth of $1.6 billion.
Now, the auctioneer, or defendant , is Coys of Kensington, founded in 1919, and is a famed UK-based auctioneer for automobiles, of which most of them are rare, collectable, and priceless jewels of automotive heritage. The object in question - is a 1970s Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS.
On October 18th, 2018, Andreas Pohl made the purchase of said 911 RS from Coys UK, for a price of £390,000 (over $500,000) - a hefty price indeed, which is only proportionate to the preposterously rising values of vintage 911s. Going back to the key point, Mr. Pohl purchased the expensive 911 RS without having inspected the car beforehand, despite being offered the chance to do so thoroughly.
Apparently, Coys has assured Mr. Pohl of the authenticity and condition of the 911 RS, hence he declined the need to inspect the car either in person, or by sending someone over. However, after the car's arrived before his very eyes, his inspection found that the 911 RS was not only inauthentic, but also unsafe to drive.
Some of the parts in his car didn't match up with Coys assurances. For example, Mr. Pohl's 911 RS was built on a later model, rather than a rarer, more collectable earlier model of the RS. The crankcase was aluminium, instead of magnesium. It's even fitted with electrical plug connections, screw connections for the safety belts, reinforcing plates, and replacement doors.
Not being a 911 enthusiast myself, I have no idea about the significance of those small details, so perhaps someone could tell me in the comments…
That said, I do understand that Mr. Pohl's 911 also came in a poor condition, with some rather obvious issues, and could be potentially dangerous for driving. The brakes and axles are both corroded, plus the steering system leaks - which means that this £390,000 sports car couldn't pass the MOT (the UK's road worthiness test ) any better than a bargain bin £250 MX-5.
Credits to: Netcarshow
Naturally, Mr. Pohl then contacted Coys about the car's condition, to which Coys supposedly replied that they'll refund him, but instead, as time goes on, the money never came. Running out of patience, Mr. Pohl then rejected the car outright on January 30th, 2019.
In Coys defense, they stated that Andreas Pohl signed a declaration - acknowledging that the 911 RS was a collector's item, and it may have had some parts replaced, and Mr. Pohl, just like every customer, was given the chance to have a proper inspection of the car before making the purchase, and that Mr. Pohl was satisfied with the car's "condition and authenticity" upon agreeing to purchase it.
Going over the fingerprints.
Credits to: GIPHY
Made in the early 70s, the 911 RS reigns as one of the holy grail for Porschephiles to lust over. In the eyes of enthusiasts and collectors, the Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS is placed alongside the Speedsters and classic Turbos of Porsche past, for sheer driving purity.
As the name suggests, the Carrera 2.7 RS had a 2.7-litre flat-six engine, which was air-cooled, thus giving it that naturally raspy tone as you accelerate, a sensation and noise which you just don't get on cars today. From that rear-mounted engine, you get 210 bhp and 188 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 5-speed transmission, which helps acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, and onto a top speed of 150 mph - numbers that are rather commendable for a 70s sports car.
Credits to: Total 911
RS stood for Rennsport, meaning "race sport", or "motorsport" in contemporary tongue. Fittingly, two versions were made for the 911 RS - a Touring variant for regular road use, which weighed around 1,075 kg - and a Sport Lightweight variant, which weighed only 975 kg, was designed for more hardcore driving, with thinner steel and glass used for its construction.
As a result of being rear-engined, light, and relatively small, 911s have always had great balancing, helped by excellent suspension and fitted onto a finely tuned chassis. By taking that formula, then removing weight and adding more power, the 911 RS was a pure track monster, capable of devouring corners at great speeds.
Going a bit into the design, its rather typical of a 1970s Porsche 911, with its Beetle ancestry ever more present in the flesh, with the exception of its large ducktail spoiler, and the decals along the side. The interior does not spark much conversation, as there's not much interesting notes to talk about.
Credits to: HICONSUMPTION
Fun Fact! - The "Carrera" nomenclature which is used for 911s, even until today, was based on the "Carrera Panamericana", that was a border-to-border racing event which was held on the public roads of Mexico, in the same style of Italy's famed Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. The 911 RS was built to motorsports homologation requirements, and 49 RS cars were later built with a larger 2.8L engine, which made 300hp! Also, the 911 RS became the testbed for the legendary, more powerful 911 RSR, which had a 3.0L engine.
Passing judgment, and my final thoughts.
Billionaire or not, spending six-figure sums on anything is a large commitment, especially for a car, which you may not only collect and display, but ultimately requires it to be driven, with regular interactions from the caretaker.
Personally, I think that its rather risky to make any purchase without seeing it in person, and by making that decision, you're ultimately willing to accept the fact that the item may not arrive in the condition that you've expected. That is an important aspect of making any purchase - to make sure the condition is okay, and that you're getting what you've paid for.
This is especially important with buying cars, as anyone with experience will know. There are countless things that you have to check, especially if the car that you're buying is second-hand. This could be important components, such as looking into the engine bay to assess its health, or it could more aesthetic in nature, such as going over the bodywork and paint.
In the case of Mr. Pohl, he bought the 911 RS without peering a single eye on it beforehand. Understandably, his busy work schedule may have prevented him from going in person, but surely he could spare some money to send over a trusted associate to check it out, instead?
Credits to: GIPHY
It was a surprisingly unwise and inadvisable decision, when you note that Mr. Andreas Pohl made his billions as the CEO of a large insurance company - an industry that advises the need for careful due diligence and procedures, before making any conclusion.
Now, that's not to say that Mr. Pohl doesn't know his way around cars. Like us, he's a big car enthusiast, having taken part in several historic rallies, races, and concourse events. Considering his know-how around cars, and especially given that he's identified several minute imperfections in the car, such as the difference between the aluminium and magnesium crankcase , I think if he'd taken the chance to inspect the 911 RS for even a brief moment, he may have prevented this conundrum.
Credits to: The Telegraph
To be clear, it’s a common practice for buyers to not inspect their purchases personally, given that many millionaires and billionaires have busy schedules to look after, and they're usually half-way around the world from car auctions at any given time. So, it's the norm for them to send over a specialist, be it a mechanic or a fellow collector, to check the cars, along with their condition and originality, to then decide whether to give a green light before sending the cheque.
However, Coys may not be entirely innocent here as well. The prestigious firm has had the pleasure of selling thousands of priceless automobiles, which marks their reputation as nothing short of stellar. Yet, its odd that they've failed to mention the rusty brakes and axles, along with the leaky steering system, when they were asked by Mr. Pohl.
All in all, legal proceedings have begun as the lawyers are already starting to sift around papers. While we could stare and make judgment, perhaps then it was an honest mistake on both sides, or it may evolve into an expensive payout. In any case, I think we should take this as a lesson - over why you should see, before you buy.
Credits to: GIPHY