USED-CAR CAVIAR

On this luxury lot, prices start at $74,000 -- and go (way) up

"Most of these cars we have were people's babies -- sitting in their garage or in a museum." -- Harlan Goldman
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The tightly packed rows of vehicles at Marshall Goldman Motor Sales are unlike what you'd find at practically any other used-car store.

Ferraris and Porsches are as common here as Fords and Toyotas are on a typical lot. There are Bentleys, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and Maseratis, many with only a few thousand miles on the odometer. The cheapest Chevrolet, a 5-year-old Corvette ZR1, is listed for $74,000.

All of the cars are kept inside a massive showroom, safe from unpredictable Midwestern weather and would-be thieves. Drivers passing by might not even notice they're there.

"With these types of cars, you can't leave them outside," said Harlan Goldman, whose father, Marshall, started the business in 1978. "You can't go anywhere in the country and see this selection, all under one roof."

Tucked away near a freeway exit ramp in a working-class suburb southeast of Cleveland, the store attracts customers from all over the country and many corners of the world. It sells 50 to 80 cars a month, mostly for $125,000 and up.

About 125 to 180 cars are in inventory at any given time; the store owns them all outright, Goldman said.

Upscale sales
Marshall Goldman Motor Sales
Location: Warrensville Heights, Ohio
Founded: 1978
Employees: 15
Monthly sales: 50 to 80 used cars
Average sale price: $125,000 to $150,000

Cars like these don’t sit outside. Usually, 125 to 180 are in the showroom.

He said the store is shooting for sales of $100 million this year.

Suffice it to say the sales staff doesn't have to spend its time haggling over a few dollars in the monthly payment.

"They've carved out the high end of the used-car business in an incredible way," said Dean Mueller, a longtime customer and family friend. "I can't imagine there's any more than a couple of places like them in the country."

Mueller, president of Dealer Tire LLC, a Cleveland company that supplies tires to franchised dealerships, said he has bought numerous Porsches from Marshall Goldman, including some older 911 Turbos with fewer than 5,000 miles on them.

"They know the kind of things that I like, and when they get something in they'll call me," he said. "They do absolutely get the best cars that I've seen."

Harlan Goldman, 38, said the dealership's forte is low-mileage cars, many of which had just one previous owner. Customers often pay at least $100,000 less than the original sticker price for a car that still looks and feels new, he said. A 2012 Bentley Mulsanne with 5,000 miles on the odometer that cost about $350,000 new, for example, has an asking price of $220,000.

"Most of these cars we have were people's babies -- sitting in their garage or in a museum," Goldman said. "Nobody even knows they're buying a used car."

The company works with several independent buyers who help procure inventory from around the country, though Goldman said he's "pounding the pavement every moment" and buys about three-fourths of the cars himself. New arrivals usually spend two days getting detailed but rarely need any additional work before being listed for sale.

The store finds about 75 percent of its inventory; independent buyers locate the rest.

Few customers actually see the store. Nine in 10 deals are done over the phone or by e-mail, and while many are paid in cash, the dealership does offer financing.

Goldman estimates that only about one-third of his customers live within 200 miles. Some of those who live farther away fly in to pick up their cars, but for many the first time they see their purchase in person is when it's delivered to them.

About 10 percent of customers live overseas, particularly in Europe and the Middle East.

Last month Goldman sent a Saleen S7 to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where a buyer then planned to export it to his home in Kuwait.

Goldman said his father, now 67, specialized in exotic cars from the beginning. The store has been in the same location for 26 years, with expansions bringing the showroom to about 26,000 square feet.

This spring, Marshall Goldman plans to sell his personal collection of 40 Porsches. Among the cars are seven 911 Speedsters from the late 2000s, which will list for about $200,000 each, and some older "flat nose" 911s expected to go for about $400,000.

"My father and I have made a nice living," Harlan Goldman said. "We work very hard at it, and it's been good to us."

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter


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