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NEW YORK: In the wee hours of the morning in October 2020, Brent Estes turned his insomnia into US$35,500 (RM166,921).
The 39-year-old Californian was in bed, scrolling through Hummers on his phone – specifically, the GMC Hummer EV, one of the rarest and most coveted machines in a parade of all-new electric vehicles (EVs).
Estes happened to be awake during a tiny window in which a US$100 (RM470.20) deposit reserved the right to buy one of the first models off the assembly line.
Within 10 minutes, all of the first editions were spoken for, including the one he managed to secure.
It wasn’t until almost two years later that Estes, vice-president of a commercial heating and air-conditioning contractor, finally got the truck.
He shelled out about US$125,000 (RM587,750) under strict instructions from his wife: Don’t let her drive it, or she might want to keep it.
So Estes drove the Hummer directly to his father’s garage, where it sat for three weeks. On Sept 28, he sold it at auction for US$160,500 (RM754,671).
“It’s kind of like winning a mini lottery,” he says. “It’s an amazing truck, but to me it’s not worth what other people are willing to pay.”
In the car world, flipping a brand-new vehicle is a practice as old as seat belts, and one historically confined to sports cars made in small batches.
However, the emergence of EVs has led to a flipping frenzy of sorts.
Demand is at an all-time high for both mass-market and higher-end models, and factories are struggling to keep up.
That means EV owners savvy or lucky enough to have secured an early edition of a highly coveted car are often choosing an immediate sale (and a handsome profit) over the street cred of being an early adopter.
And the practice is picking up speed, as the staggering sales figures lure more recent buyers into immediately listing their cars.
“The collective car market and the enthusiast market has been expanding and appreciating so quickly over the last two years and this fits right into it,” said Brian Rabold, vice-president of auto intelligence at Hagerty Inc, an underwriter that specialises in collectible cars.
“If you wanted an electric pick-up, you literally didn’t have an option until now.”
Rabold cites several factors as priming the market for short-term sales. For one, electric cars are still a relatively new phenomena, a step-change in technology arguably unlike any to date.
Secondly, these battery-powered cars and trucks are arriving in concert with a crowd of online peer-to-peer sales platforms like Facebook Marketplace; Bring a Trailer (launched in 2007), and Cars & Bids (launched in 2020).
These sites have created a much more liquid market for used cars, and particularly coveted collectible ones.