Amanda and Darren head to the home and showroom of Tom Hartley, one of the most renowned and respected figures in the supercar and luxury car community. The car world is full of fascinating characters, but few have a story to tell quite as remarkable and inspirational as Tom Hartley. Walking out of school at the age of 11, unable to read or write, Hartley set up his own business buying and selling cars. From that moment on he defied logic and ripped up the rule book on his way to the top. Today he runs one of the most successful independent family-run luxury, performance and classic car businesses in the world, and has built up an unrivalled reputation as ‘The Dealmaker.’
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Episode Transcript - FULL TEXT

Amanda: Welcome to the Fund Your Passion podcasts brought to you by JBR Capital. I’m delighted to say we’re here in person. Darren and I have made the trip up to Tom Hartley. Darren, first of all-

Darren: Hello.

Amanda: -exciting to be in person.

Darren: I’m so excited. It’s the first venture out to a dealer site to do our Fund Your Passion podcast, and who better to do it with than Tom Hartley-

Tom Hartley: Thank you so much, Darren.

Darren: -who I hold in very high esteem, and I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot from Tom, some great stories, some market update. Amanda, I’m sure you’ll tell us a lot more about what’s going on today.

Amanda: Well, I will, but first of all, happy birthday.

Tom: Thank you very much, Amanda.

Amanda: A bit of a milestone.

Tom: Yes, I was 60 a few days ago. Where you’re sitting now, I was telling you earlier, 39 years ago, I arrived here in a caravan on this baseboard. In fact, where you’re sitting was the living room of a two-bedroom bungalow. Now it’s 46 acres of supercars, three houses, a famous car stage, and undoubtedly the most famous landmark for such products as this.

Amanda: Did you allow yourself a little bit of time, obviously, with that birthday milestone, to actually sit back reflect and give yourself a pat on the back?

Tom: It’s interesting, as you’re aware, I had an autobiography come out last year called The Dealmaker. I was spending a day a week from 8:30 in the morning till 8:30 at night with a ghostwriter and one of my PAs in the boardroom up the stair writing that book. The answer to the question you just asked me, it was the first time– I think I told you the Darren.

Darren: You did.

Tom: It was the first time in my life, I have had time to reflect on what I’d done in my life. It’s very emotional in good ways and bad ways, because it was giving me time that I’ve never given myself which is quite hard to understand or believe in that journey, where I’m so focused and doing what I do and getting on with it, moving forward. I’ve never ever stopped, and thought, “Hold on a second.” Because I writing my book, I had to remember it, and I had to relive it, and I had to have reflection. Like I said to you, that was the only time I ever took on board what success and achievement has happened during my journey.

Amanda: I guess, obviously, birthday and the book and having to go through that process of bringing up some of those memories. Again, it gave you you-time to think about it. What’s been the response from everybody who’s read it or seen the book, because it’s only recently come out.

Tom: Yes, it was great, 12 months as the best seller on Amazon. It’s in America now, it’s in Hong Kong, it’s in Australia, it’s all over the world. I think, Darren will tell you in the trader, in the industry it’s had an incredible response. The public itself, I get letters on a daily basis. Definitely, weekly basis but sometimes daily basis of how inspiring it’s changed people’s mindset in business and how they’ve adapted to how my life unfolded for me and not to give up in life and to be determined. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it. I can tell you something quite very difficult to be able to accept or understand, but where you’re sitting now, Darren, this whole thing, I had a vision of this when I was 12 year old.

Darren: You didn’t not.

Tom: I had a vision of the setup when I was 12, 13 year old.

Darren: Wow.

Tom: That’s very difficult sometimes to say that to people, but I swear on my life it’s true.

Amanda: Darren, this is your copy, isn’t it?

Darren: This is my copy that I bought. I pre-ordered it months before because I wanted to make sure I got a copy. I brought it especially today because I want Tom to sign it for me. I’ve been waiting for this movement for over a year, but we’re here today. I’ve read the book cover to cover. I found it absolutely fascinating. Actually, you’re quite correct.

I found a lot of the book quite inspirational because it would be easy for people to think, and the general public to think that it’s been an easy ride for Tom Hartley throughout his career. Actually, if you read the book, there has been some significant setbacks. It’s the way that you’ve dealt with those setbacks it’s quite inspiring.

I certainly sat back and thought, “Wow, I’ve had setbacks in my own life. We all have setbacks, but it really is about how you deal with them.” Coming today and I will always love coming to the site and seeing what you have achieved, but I’ll let you into a little secret.

I first knew about Tom Hartley when I first answered into this trade in 2003. The first thing I used to do every Sunday was I got The Times and look at the Tom Hartley page as a classifies. I was monitoring the prices. It was my way of trying to understand what the market was doing, what the trends were doing.

Even back all that time, I didn’t know you. I was looking to see what Tom Hartley was doing, and that is quite typical of what the market does today. A lot of people do value and respect Tom’s views on cars and certainly on values. I think often you’re marking down cars and values long before other people.

Tom: Absolutely, reacting to the markets.

Darren: Other people are still living in dreamland that they’re going to get the price of the car. Very inspirational for me. We didn’t have a business relationship until much further on in my career, but I was certainly tracking you a long time anyway.

Amanda: I’m tempted to make some comment here about Donald Trump, with his book and going into politics. We’re not going to be seeing you running in a political capacity anytime soon, are we?

Tom: Funny you should say that because last year I was presented by the local government. They presented me with the Coat of Arms for South Derbyshire for my contribution to investments and business for this area, which was an incredible honor. It was presented to me and it was very moving, it was very emotional. Because, again, reflecting this guy is telling me what I’ve achieved and what I haven’t achieved. I’m listening to him and I’m thinking, I felt a little bit embarrassed. I said to myself, “He’s only telling the truth. He hasn’t said anything that is not the truth.”

Because of that, excuse me, I’m now into education. My book is given to universities, to colleges all over the country. Local to us is a very famous boarding school called Repton. I’ve just got involved with them to be a speaker for their children, their pupils to teach them entrepreneurship and leadership. Things that, no disrespect to the school teachers in that school, they can’t teach them that stuff because they’re not entrepreneurs.

Amanda: Absolutely. Well, we’re going to come onto that in a minute.

Tom: For me, I’m not into politics, but I get asked a lot of times about my advice. I work very close with the local government here because of who I am.

Darren: I’ve got a question.

Amanda: Go on then.

Darren: You mentioned about entrepreneurship and teaching entrepreneurship, but is that really something you can teach people or do you think it’s just something that comes from within?

Tom: I always use a famous line on that note, is gut feeling the experience is far better than research and training. That’s why they come in here. I would say I felt it from here. Some of the kids, 12-year-olds to 18-year-olds, and I’m not aiming at the best one in the classroom. I’m actually aiming at the worst one in the classroom. I say, “Listen, you never feel dumb.” Because I’ve learned so much things from being involved with education and especially colleges. Loughborough College had a business award for student for 200 years and that award never had a name until last year. That was called the Tom Hartley award, called the Tom Hartley award by somebody that can’t read and write.

You need to know I had no school education. I left school when I was 11. Apart from writing a few words and reading is very difficult for me, my secretary reads everything to me. Academic-wise I’m very good at maths. I can count from 1 to 10 very quickly and I can even sum as Darren will tell you. I do believe at that age, you set the plan for where you want to be and what you want to do, and you can do that if you want to. Time is a great asset to have by developing.

Amanda: What motivated you then to get involved with education, schoolchildren, university? What was that trigger?

Tom: Well, I feel I need to give back to my area. I need to give something back to it. They’ve come to me with open arms and said, “Look, Tom, this is the flagship.” That which I believe are not. There used to be a flagship Toyota. Toyota, which is built here. Now, you look at this as a flagship to pitch international investors. When they arrive they visit here. There’s a boardroom up the stair that will be used and this would be the flagship of what our business is.

Darren: You only need to look at the photographs in your book of the site when you first moved here, and then look at what the site has become and what you’ve developed. I mean, it’s extraordinary.

Tom: Well, this showroom, in particular, we’ll go to the washroom later but this showroom, in particular, was developed to be different to any else other in the UK and it’s a state-of-the-art showroom. You’re stepping on a glass floor just now and there’s a fantastic car lift there. Everything about this building is different. As my son Carl said, it’s a standard where showrooms will be in 10 years’ time. When you visit the Hartley estate, unlike a showroom in the city center, from the minute you arrive at the gates to the minute you leave, it’s a completely different experience than anywhere else. It’s not just about the cars, it’s the grimes, the flowers, the gardens, the manicured lawns, everything is immaculate here, and that’s where I am. I’m a bit OCD with that type of stuff.

Amanda: Well, it is incredible. I want to talk more about the place and the setup that you’ve got in a little bit, but let’s just talk about the market quickly. It’s been a difficult few months. I think COVID has definitely put the brakes on a lot of things but how have you seen it and what’s been your gut reaction?

Tom: In contrast to what you’re seeing and how the market is, for the Tom Hartley brand, because we’re flexible and we react very quickly to the market business Darren was saying earlier, business is good. When it’s good it’s even better when it’s bad for others. I don’t know if you make sense for that but we’re always buyers of cars whatever the marketplace does. We set the price trends.

As Darren said, we’re first to react to the market prices, be it 50,000 less or 50,000 more, it’s instant. By the time the others make their mind up and others arrive there, we’ve been and done it, it’s happened. That’s because we have 48 years of in-house experience, me in particular. I share with my son Carl who’s a partner in the business and we’re able to arrive at, there’s a market and there’s our price. All I’m interested in is our price and our business. It’s quite simple to do that.

Amanda: When we were talking just before we started this, you mentioned, you’ve obviously been in the industry for many, many years-

Tom: 48 years.

Amanda: -but this was never really your passion, this was never really where you saw yourself going.

Tom: Well, my boot’s call the dealmaker because I do deals. I do deals every day of the week, be it in property or in cars, cars predominantly. The name Tom Hartley is a brand famous for the supercars, luxury cars, and classic cars. That’s what I do, but it’s the deal– I’m a people’s person. It’s about the deal for me and it happens to be cars, but it’s all about the deal.

Amanda: It could just as easily have been property, horses?

Tom: It could have been other things but as a younger man, I had more of a passion for cars than I probably do these other assets to me. The numbers are commodities and it’s easy, I think I told you earlier, I’m seen driving a Volkswagen Golf diesel, it was crazy. I was in London on Saturday driving there.

Darren: You didn’t call me.

Tom: No. I was in London Saturday, and it was another discovery, of course, I was in a very well-known restaurant in Mayfair.

Amanda: You didn’t go to May.

Darren: I know which one, because I saw the photo.

Tom: I’m so safe and I did not–

Amanda: Did they sell fish?

Tom: I’m not sure, but listen, I don’t drink tea. I will not drink tea over a mug. Not because I’m a snob, it’s just like to drink tea out of a cup. I’m saying that too to understand my personality to anybody who might be watching this podcast. I wear my heart on my sleeve. On Saturday, there was about half a dozen or so, I was sitting outside, half a dozen or so different followers. I’m more well-known in London than I am in any other part of the country. These guys were starting to having a photograph taken with me and there’s these two young ladies, beautiful young ladies beside to me, from Cheshire. I’d had a conversation with them prior to all this happening.

The lady walks up to me and said, I don’t remember what they said but, “I know who you are.”

[laughter]

Tom: The gentleman he was slacking his head off. “Yes, he buys cars, he’s Tom.” I said, “Unless you’re into cars, you shouldn’t.” But then the lady said, “I knew my husband, I knew your name from somewhere.” But there was two of them, “Who is this guy you two keeps talking about?” That’s what I get up every day for 48 years, it’s brought me to that standard. I’m a car dealer, at the end of the day, I’m a car dealer. How many car dealers go to London and their face is known, or they’re known who they are because that’s the cars you see in London? People recognize me normally there. Have been in airports and people recognize me. That’s from 48 years of being in business.

Amanda: Does that come through with you.

Tom: It does, because I said I’m a people’s person and I’m not not a snob.

Amanda: There’s people’s person, but there’s also that intrusion into you just sitting, having lunch.

Tom: Well, unfortunately, I happen to be in a high-profile business and I have a profile that I’m very proud of during that 48 years. It’s been very difficult to build it, but I protect it with great interest and I trade off my reputation. You can do that after 48 years in business. To say that, no, I would be the wrong type of person, that is not me at all. If somebody went out of their way to actually say, “Hi, it’s Tom Hartley– because I have got a photograph. I would never have ever, ever, ever be disturbed by that.

Darren: I think it’s fair to say one of your special qualities, if I call it that, is your innate ability to talk to anybody, whether it’s wealthy or the desperate. You treat everyone the same, and I think that is well known.

Tom: That is me. That’s what I’m all about. What you see is what you get.

Amanda: Does that skill, that ability to communicate to everybody on a level playing field, does that help you sell cars?

Tom: Absolutely. As Darren was just saying, I think I’ve got an understanding to be able to communicate and relate to people’s requirements, needs, and read people. If I hadn’t been in the car business, I would have likely been a lawyer because I do understand people and unfortunately nobody tells the truth in life and in business, that’s a fact of life. I think the skill of being able to, as Darren said, communicate with, it could be Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber or it could be a guy selling bikes on the top corner shop. That gap is what I think–

Darren: Actually, I think it’s perfect because my own experiences of dealing with customers who are buying high-value vehicles, is it doesn’t matter how wealthy or poor, or that’s probably the wrong word, but from whatever background you come from or whether you’re well-known or not so well-known. I found when it comes to cars and talking about the cars, they all turn into little boys or girls, and just can be very passionate about the cars they’re buying, and just want to talk and talk and talk and talk. To be able to talk to whomever, I think is a fantastic skill.

Tom: Yes, it’s a great asset. Some people are shy and we’re all different. We all do think in different ways. This business has been built on my being upfront. Some of the famous stories going back to the mid-80s when I stopped the guy, it’s in my book, by the way, when I stopped the guy outside the Hilton hotel. He had just taken delivery of a new Jaguar XJ40, and you can get them about two, three-year waiting list. It was the first one I saw. It had only been launched 40 hours or so. I’m going to the Hilton hotel and the car pulled up.

A guy opened the back door for his chairman to go out with his briefcase. I said, “Do you want to sell that car?” They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I’ll buy the car from you.” They said, “Why do you want to buy?” I said, “I’ll give you more than what you just paid for that car.” Because not everybody understood in then times that cars made premiums and you could get more money for a car than what you paid for it. I gave £33,000 for this car at that time, which was a lot of money in 1986.

Anyway, he said, “What will you pay me for it? I said, “I’ll give you £3,000 more than what you paid for it.” I think it was at the time £36,000 quid. He said, “You’ve got a deal.” He said, “But I’ve got a meeting.” I said, “You can go to your meeting. By the time you come out of your meeting, I will have a banker’s draft for you.” That’s what you did on them days. You had a banker’s draft, which is a certified check. I went to the Oxford Street branch, that West, came back with a banker’s draft. He came out of his meeting and I left him with no car, a banker’s draft. He reported that to the Evening Standard and I got a phone call from a reporter saying, “We’ve just been told about a story that you bought a car.”

I said, “The Hilton hotel, and I left the guy with a briefcase.” I told him the story. Next thing I know BBC are here. A very famous reporter who got killed in Afghanistan called Mike Duncan. He done the live program from here because it was a British car and I was paying premiums for these cars and stopping people on the street or wherever I’ve seen them. That’s what I do. That’s what I did in them days. They made a big thing of it it. Then on the back of that was top gear, who filmed here three times in three different decades, which is quite an achievement.

Amanda: Do you know what strikes me about that? Obviously, it’s a great story, but it’s actually your memory for the for the numbers back in the 1980s.

Tom: I can get a call from a guy I sold a car to 20 years ago and all from his voice I can remember who he is. It’s unbelievable.

Amanda: That’s a skill that you can’t teach young people.

Tom: It’s called dedication and focus.

Amanda: Is it?

Tom: Yes, I think it is. I think when you’re so focused on your business and what you do, I eat, breath and sleep this business seven days a week.

Darren: I thought I was the man that never stops, but I’m completely outdone.

Amanda: You’ve got some stiff competition here.

Darren: Completely outdone by Tom.

Tom: I have about four hours sleep, four or five hours is all I need. I do emails, I can show my telephone. I was doing emails to America, I’ve just sold a Morgan to a very famous, I can’t say his name and time, probably the most famous entertainer in America. I was doing an email with him three o’clock this morning from my bedroom.

Amanda: Does it ever stop? Do you ever switch off?

Tom: No.

Amanda: Are you always open for a deal?

Tom: Every time I’m breathing, my eyes are open, even sometimes when I’m sleeping, I’m always thinking about a deal.

Darren: Have the Hartley’s ever had a holiday? Because I did read in the book, there were some holidays.

Tom: I do have holidays but I also take my office with me, so it’s just how I am. My wife she’s used to that, she understands that, we’ve done this together. She’s a housewife and a mother. That’s the part and the role that she plays that makes it able for me to do what I do, the way that I do it. She just do that. It wouldn’t be for everybody. It’s getting a little bit better than it used to be, but it still, answer to your question, I always think about doing deals.

Amanda: Family is obviously important and you’ve got a lot of your family around you. How much a part does that play in your day to day business, but also how proud does it make you as a father?

Tom: All my children were school educated in my office, in my showroom here, the same way as I was. I left school at 11, they all left school at the same age, believe it or not, and I self-educated them. What’s quite interesting is back in the late ’80s, when I was doing this with my children, I was getting all sorts of slack from– I was appearing on things like Esther Ronson show, Vanessa Phillips, Kilroy, these were all famous shows. They’ll say, “Listen sirr, you can’t take your children out of school, this is illegal.”

I says, “I can, because I believe in learning more with me and what I can give them in life to what they’re going to achieve from school.” That’s how it was. I had to register with a company called Education Otherwise, which are a government body. They are normally around for kids who gets sexually abused in school or get abused, so they have to get them out for that reason. That wasn’t my case, my case was I wanted my children to be educated here. The essence of the story and the point of me telling you how that was with me, and how challenging I had to demonstrate to critics out there.

One of my sons I believe are one of the youngest self-made millionaires in UK business, my other son was the youngest, the wealthiest under 30 year old on the rich list. I didn’t do a bad job educating them myself. I think I gave them the right things that they needed to know. In conclusion to that, when I started writing this book, at first somebody offered to write the book. There’s full page article on a lot of the national press, Simon Cowell had decided that he didn’t want his son going to school, he wanted to educate him in his business and we laughed, me and golfbuddy laughed because he had known my story for so many years. The politics now and the prime minister is urging young people to be entrepreneurs as young as possible. What they’re doing now, I done 30 odd years ago for my children.

Amanda: How do your children feel about that? Do they have children?

Tom: Yes.

Amanda: Are they educating their children in the same way that you educated them?

Tom: No, things are a bit different, to be honest with you. I had this conversation with Carl the other day because of my connection with Repton school now. We’re thinking about sending my grandchildren to Repton school and college and he said, “You know dad, I’ve got no complaints with how I’ve turned out in life and the opportunities you gave me.” My kids were never born with a silver spoon in their mouth. That’s what’s sad when you’ve got such a successful father who’s achieved a lot of things in life. I can feel sorry for how other children feel within that family.

I really made it a point that they earn what they got and they answered to the value of money as they still do today. My son’s a partner in this business. He wasn’t given a share in this business, he earned his share in this business and the same with my other son who now works on his own. It’s how I brought my children up, is respect the value of money.

Amanda: It’s a difficult challenge, isn’t it, these days when you’re certainly talking about such big sums. As well as obviously family you’ve also got incredibly loyal clients, how have you managed to achieve that?

Tom: Well, we could trade off an answer to the question about how the market’s been. Lockdown for us, we never had a lockdown because we work from home and that’s what I’ve always done. This is our 65 yards left to one showroom and 65 yards left to another showroom, so we were trading in lockdown. We were trading with clients all over the world and business was unbelievable. It was embarrassing to see how much business we were doing because we were really the only ship or car dealership open in the UK that could deal with clients, everything else was closed.

When they did reopen, everybody caught up with how the market was and they couldn’t believe we had already had four months of that. I knew what it was and what it was like. Even as we speak today all the s**t that’s going on in the world is horrible s**t. I don’t believe, in fact, I know it’s a fact every business from an insect catcher to an art dealer to a diamond dealer to a property person has never had it so good.

You may see something on the news now about ICA or BP or something like a conglomerate, I think you understand what I’m trying to say here, that’s where this was slow and that’s where the market’s been affected. I’m telling you as far as independent businessmen and entrepreneurs are concerned, business and the economy has never been so good.

Darren: Especially in the luxury goods sector. Luxury goods sector has fared particularly well. Very shortly after lockdown opened, from June onwards, it’s just been insatiable. Certainly from our perspective, DBR capital’s perspective, in financing of luxury cars, it’s as busy now, more busy than it has been than I’ve ever seen in 20 years.

Tom: I did tell you that last year, didn’t I? I told you that business was booming.

Darren: It did. We went to open and you kept telling me.

Tom: I told you. We went to open and I told them exactly how it was going to be.

Darren: You said, “Why don’t you come to us in London, you’re missing out.” I said, “We’re trying.”

Amanda: Obviously, a lot of these cars that you sell and you deal in, they are investment cars as well. Are you seeing people making these speculative purchases, particularly at the moment? Is that affecting the way the pricing is going? Are people buying cars that they wouldn’t necessarily normally buy using finance because they are speculating on where the market’s going?

Tom: Well, the biggest movement in my area being in this business was 2008 when the banks were crushing and everything was going pear shaped. Very wealthy people, very, very old money as I’d call it, were buying into classic cars. Classic car prices went from what was a normal standard to just a ridiculous growth and investment. That was the biggest move and the fastest development for people doing that type of thing. It slowed up a bit and now people are investing into cars like pieces of art. They are buying them, Porsches, in particular, Ferrari. I know you’re not a big Porsche fan, but I’d have to say that.

Darren: News travel quite fast, doesn’t it?

Tom: Yes, they are investments.

Amanda: It’s not that I don’t like Porsche. It’s just that I would prefer something else. I just think they’re just direct. Where do you see the market going then long-term, in terms of long-term trends. Looking around the showroom here, I noticed there’s a distinct lack of super modern when we’re looking at EVs, are you seeing a shift towards that, or do you think that this love for internal combustion engines will remain?

Tom: That would always remain. That will always be the case. There will always be a situation where people will buy these cars, as you said earlier, Royal cars, petrol cars, things that make noises and are fast. That will always be around. When you deal with a finance company like JBR and the presence they have in the marketplace today, over the years I’ve dealt with probably every finance company that’s out there some way or another–

Amanda: Some are better than others.

Tom: Well they are, but these guys at JBR, they just know how to get the job done and that’s what’s important to me.

Darren: Now I’m getting embarrassed.

Tom: That’s what’s important to me, is getting the job done.

Amanda: It’s important.

Tom: When you work with a finance company, and I’m very interested, I don’t do tomorrow what I can do today. These guys will tell you when they’re dealing with me in particular, any sale from here, once I’ve done the deal, I want to be paid. I need to move on, and you got to do that.

Amanda: You must have some great motoring memories. Are there any real memories that stand out over the years of trading, or any cars in particular that you loved or hated?

Tom: Unlike you, I love Porsches. I’m keeping my point over, sorry. I did tell you I’m not a big McLaren fan.

Amanda: See, I would like this. It’s very different and I wouldn’t drive it on the road, but as a work of art, I think it’s beautiful. I just love the colors.

Tom: No complications with your girlfriend in there, because you drive in the middle of the sea. Unless you’ve got two girlfriends and thinking of having a car at home.

Amanda: We have got an ongoing discussion. I need a new car, but I have two Rhodesian Ridgebacks. The challenge has always been to find me a car that I can get my two dogs in.

Tom: Well, that’s the car. How about you take it home? 2.3 million you can drive home today.

Amanda: Yes, maybe not.

Darren: We can finance it for you.

Amanda: Thank you. Are there any cars that really stand out?

Tom: Ferrari play a big part. Rolls Royce from the earlier days, believe it or not. In the ’70s Rolls Royce played a big part of my journey, because they were a very strong premium car at the time, unlike any other car. What a lot of people don’t know, one of the first premium cars, I believe I created the premium market at the very start of my career back in ’72. The car I created that with was a Range Rover.

Amanda: Wow.

Tom: Yes. Which people don’t know that. Not a lot of people know that Range Rover’s 1970 cost £1,960 and it was selling for like two and a half thousand, which was a fortune. You can see that the price of the car to what it was trading for because of its lack of supply.

Amanda: Interesting you talked about Rolls Royce there because to many people that would be a premium brand and yet I see one here. Is it not really a brand that is traded much?

Tom: No, we have a couple actually. There’s one here but there’s two over there. We haven’t been to the other show room yet. No, it’s a brand that’s– Rolls Royce to me– Of all luxury cars, your Mercedes Benz, your BMWs and all the rest of them. There’s no car when you drive it gives you the same sensation as a Rolls Royce for success. To some people it’s too ostentatious, which I can understand.

Amanda: As opposed to this, which just slips under the radar.

[laughter]

Tom: Well, yes. That’s the question. Rolls Royces to me, is the ultimate of luxury and quality and always will be. The cars will always be judged on their seat quality, the Rolls Royce or whatever and the seat you’re sitting on is the Rolls Royce of seats, they’ll always be judged as, that is the best.

Amanda: Is there a strong market though in that sector or is it all super luxury?

Amanda: Yes. No, there’s a strong market in that sector.

Darren: McLaren has been extraordinarily successful, but then reducing–

Amanda: Yes, the residuals have been not very good on them, but that’s all about now people are choosing to buy them and they couldn’t buy them or didn’t want to buy them when they were 400 or 370, now they’re 250 for a second-hand one out there, the price. It’s a big difference, value for money.

Amanda: Anything that scars your memory?

Tom: One of the first in my earlier days in ’79, I lost £10,000 in an Aston Martin Volante. I never forgot that. In fact, I had two of them. I traded out one to lose £10,000. At the time, the car was £40,000. The car was £40,000, I paid £45,000 for it, trying and sell it for £50,000 at the time and ended up taking £10,000 loss. I always remembered that sort of loss. I’ve made lots of losses in life, but at that time where my finances were back in ’79, that was a big loss. That one always stays with me.

Amanda: Over the years, how have you seen the business change? Obviously, there are people coming to it. You’ve remained at the top of the heat, but how do you see the business change and how do you see it moving in the future?

Tom: I was asked the question another day by a magazine company, very big in the industry. They said, “Tom, we were doing some research and going real back to the ’70s and there’s you and there’s a couple of other names and there’s nobody else, would that be the case?” I said, “There’s probably two names I can think of right now with Tom Hartley. The other two names, they’re slightly older guys. They’re really not active now. The speed just has taken over and it’s is what it is.” I’m 60 so they’re probably 75. In fact, one guy is 80. The rest of it is no. Lots of newcomers, they come, they arrive, they make a big noise. If you look at the Tom Hartley, I think as Darren said, it’s easy.

What they don’t know is I live this seven days a week with my son. We live and breathe it. You have to be on top of that and make the time to. The big gambles, big assets here is millions and millions and millions of pounds worth of inventory. Unlike being down as Public West customer, I’ve never had a finance agreement, mortgage, or loan in my life, which is a big statement to make. I’m not saying it’s normal doing that, but I’m telling you, I’ve never had one. It’s reinvesting, reinvesting, reinvesting, growth, growth, growth, growth. What you see here is what you get.

Darren: I think it’s fair to say you’ve been in for the long haul and it comes this unbelievable drive and passion that has come from a very early age. What we’ve seen, certainly in the independent luxury dealer market, is over the last decade, maybe longer, 15 years, there’s been a number of new entrances, as they say, into the market. It tends to be someone who’s been in the industry, but doesn’t have the money, the backing. They find the backing from a wealthy customer who’s got an interest in cars and passionate about it. Then they go off starting on their own thinking it’s all going to be so easy, but they tend not to have the same work ethic or background.

Once the funder behind them loses interest, for whatever reason, it just falls away. You’ll often see lots of people entering the market and lots of people, as you say, leaving the market. Over the years, there has been a call like Tom who’ve just grown and grown, and dominated the market. That’s what we’ve seen.

Tom: That’s the story of every marketplace really and every business and the car business is no exception to that. A lot of people want to have all this but they don’t want all the problems that go with it, and they don’t want all the work it takes to get there. It’s quite a pickle.

Amanda: Right, I’ve got my final question for you. We always have this. What is your all-time favorite car?

Tom: I get asked that question every day of my life.

Amanda: Sorry.

Tom: Every day of my life.

Amanda: Do you give the same answer? Don’t say you go with changing aspects.

[laughter]

Tom: They’ll all match, they all do the same. I think you’re the expert even, confirm this with me. They all do much of the same thing.

Amanda: Yes, that do.

Tom: They all do what they do. They’re just do it a little bit different. Ferrari is probably the strongest brand, I believe, apart from Coca-Cola in the world. I think what they do with their product and how they handle it, how they manage it, how they produce it is fantastic so I’ve got a lot of respect for them. Rolls Royce plays a big part on my career because I started in the early days. As an answer to your question, I love all brands, but probably Ferrari would take the forefront.

Amanda: Which one?

Tom: LaFerrari Aperta.

Amanda: Very nice.

Tom: We just had one brought here two days ago. It was debatable whether we’re going to sell it or not. I said to the guy, “I’ll pay you and I’ll keep this car.” That guy said I wouldn’t drive it. I only use this occasionally. I do love LaFerrari. I think it’s a great car.

Amanda: I think we’re doing quite well on the Ferrari.

Darren: We were almost on the same page. For me, it was the Enzo.

Tom: Enzo, yes, well there you go.

Darren: The car that I started out in the trade back in the 2000s and funded around 22 of them so it was quite big number.

Tom: Well, I’ve sold loads of them.

Darren: You’ve sold more than I’ve sold.

Tom: Yes, I’ve sold loads and loads of them, it’s what I do. I love Ferrari Enzo, but LaFerrari for me is my favorite supercar. I’m not a Bugatti fan.

Amanda: No.

Tom: They don’t do it for me. I’ve sold lots of that. Bruce Hill he’ll tell you we sell more of secondhand Bugattis that any dealer, including Bugatti themselves, second-hand ones. They just don’t do it for me. I don’t think you have to spend that sort of money by pursuing that. I love Ferrari, there’s more money but I love them but the whole perception of Bugatti for me, and the maintenance cost is just taking the piss.

Amanda: It’s crazy. Well listen, Tom, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, and thank you very much for hosting us for our first ever in cars.

Darren: Thank you.

Tom: It’s been an honor to be the first and as I said JBR, it’s always a pleasure dealing with you, guys.

Darren: Thank you.

Tom: It’s been a pleasure to meet you.

Amanda: Well, thank you very much.

Tom: Thank you, Amanda. Thank you very much.

Amanda: I hope you have enjoyed this episode, and be sure to join us for the next one. We’ll see you soon, bye-bye.

The Fund Your Passion podcast is brought to you by JBR Capital. JBR Capital Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm reference number is 682493.
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FUND YOUR PASSION PODCAST
In our new Podcast, Amanda Stretton and Darren Selig reflect on the trends in the high-end car finance world, discuss new cars, and talk with industry experts...

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