LOS ANGELES -- The sharp drop this year in sales of ultraexpensive brands such as Bentley, Aston Martin and Lamborghini has led to some major casualties among exotic-car dealerships.
That's especially true in California, which represents as much as a third of some exotic brands' entire North American sales and where some of the most glamorous and highest-profile superluxury showrooms are found.
The implosions of Viken Keuylian's Orange County and Calabasas Lamborghini dealerships in Southern California were the year's most spectacular exotic-dealership closures. But they weren't the only ones. Exotic dealerships in Pasadena and Walnut Creek, Calif., as well as Las Vegas, have shut their Venetian blinds.
Other stores are being sold.
"If I was going to survive, I needed to consolidate," said Mark Chase, president of Symbolic Motors in San Diego.
Chase is negotiating to sell his Silicon Valley Auto Group (Bentley-Lamborghini-Aston Martin-Rolls-Royce-Bugatti-Lotus-Spyker) to Jeff Qvale's British Motor Car Distributors in San Francisco. Chase didn't want to sell the stores, but the alternative was bankruptcy.
Chase also shut down his showy Las Vegas Lamborghini-Bugatti dealership inside the ostentatious Palazzo hotel on the Strip. He now concentrates on his core exotic business in San Diego.
"I was very heavily invested in inventory on the expensive side," Chase said. "Silicon Valley is going to lead us out of this recession. The territory is phenomenal. But I couldn't keep all the stores. The bigger you are, the harder you fall."
Giacomo Mattioli, owner of Ferrari-Maserati stores in Beverly Hills and Silicon Valley had added a Maserati store in Pasadena that he hoped one day would include Ferrari. But when the five-year lease on the building came due in March, Mattioli scrapped the Pasadena enterprise.
"The last year has not been one where you see a brand-new millionaire giving himself a present because he made a great deal," Mattioli said. "It's more the core base of clients who have been with us for many years. They obviously can still afford it, but everyone has been affected."