Russo & Steele â€“ one of the â€œbig threeâ€ US collectible muscle car auction companies â€“ is powering into the Chinese market through an affiliation agreement with the China used car firm CALI (China Auto Logistics, Inc.).
Specializing in European sports cars, American muscle cars, hot rods and customs, Russo & Steele was launched in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2001. Chief executive officer Drew Alcazar had vision of staging an exclusive, boutique-style auction that remains the only one of its type. To create and keep Russo & Steele in an exclusive format for car enthusiasts, only registered bidders, consignors and their guests are allowed into the main auction tent where the cars cross the auction block to a high energy arena, with dinner and cocktails being part of the experience. Only an outdoor staging areas with hundreds of cars are readying for their moment in the spotlight is open to the public.
Russo & Steele developed a the â€œAuction in the Roundâ€ concept, which allows for a very interactive auction block that generates excitement with a sense of urgency and personal emotion that live auction events are all about. The company hosts two auctions a year â€“ at Scottsdale each January and Monterey, California, in August.
For the Chinese market, Russo & Steele is again pioneering a new way to buy and sell muscle cars â€“ this time through the Internet. Andrew Alcazar says a new approach had to be found because China is very much a two class society, with wealthy at the top and a very large working class but relatively few middle class. One consequence is that interest in collectable cars is heavily oriented to those in the six figure cost range (i.e., over $100,000). The focus will be on internationally known mostly post WWII cars made by Mercedes, Jaguar and Ferrari, with perhaps a â€œfewâ€ in the Cadillac group. Many of the popular U.S. collectable muscle cars are not of interest in China because few people in that country grew up with such cars and can not identify with them as enthusiasts do in the U.S. Because few examples of the six-figure collectable cars even exist in China, they will be sourced and shipped from other countries. Cars that â€œlook cool and go fastâ€ are most in demand as collectables.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Andrew Alcazar what the benefits to both sellers and bidders of Russo & Steele’s trademark “Boutique Style” auctions.
Alcazar: Keeping our sales small and intimate allow the enthusiasts to be at the center of the event. It is difficult to have any car, no mater how nice, rise above a sea of over 1,000 plus cars. From a buyer’s perspective, getting asked to move as someone takes a picture to hang on their wall or be run over by a baby stroller when one is inspecting a potential purchase compromises the integrity of the auction. Also, buyers can be easily desensitized by hundreds of venders, fashion shows, general public mayhem and other activities that simply do not lend themselves to the collector car auction experience.
AI: Why do you continue to maintain the lowest fees and commissions?
Alcazar: We, as enthusiasts ourselves, know that keeping costs and fees reasonable will continue our proven track record creating loyal clients. Building equity in the relationships with our buyers and sellers is what we seek to foster. The best deals are the ones that are good for everyone.
AI: How fast does Russo & Steele cash out their sellers?
Alcazar: We make every effort to be the “fastest guns in the west”! Once we have received cleared funds from our buyers, it is our obligation to cash our sellers out quickly. One of the very best ways to say “Thank You” to our selling clients, and have them continue to bring high quality consignments to our sale is to get their sales proceeds delivered promptly.
AI: Why does Russo & Steele stage only two auctions per year?
Alcazar: We want to offer our clients cars in venues that will have the very best environment for perspective buyers. In addition, it allows us to focus all our resources on these two events and offer personal attention to detail.
Team Russo & Steele
Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auctions is driven by a husband and wife team â€“ Andrew and Josephine Alcazar.Â
When they founded the company, the pair decided to buck tradition and not name the company after themselves, but rather to create an organization that empowers their employees. Russo & Steele, was born from the cars they love -Russo representing the European Sports Cars and derived from â€œRusso Rubino,â€ the dark color red on vintage Ferraris. The name Steele represents “Detroit Iron” of the American Muscle Cars.
Growing up on a guest ranch in Colorado, Andrew quickly discovered the horsepower that captured his interest was in the form of cubic inches rather than cattle drives.
Early cultivation of his collector car hobby included the founding of several clubs and participation in the now famous “High School Days” drag racing series at Bandimere Speedway just outside of Denver.
Shifting gears from racing to restoration, Andrew restored a two time Grand National winning â€˜69 Mustang Mach 1 while studying for an undergraduate degree at Colorado State University. Many awards and accolades fuelled Alcazar’s reputation as an expert and authority throughout the various Muscle Car show circuits.
He then founded Concours Restorations, which operated for over a decade in Southern California. Alcazar’s restored Shelby’s and Cobras often won Best in Shows, and featured in major auto publications. Looking for new challenges Alcazar moved to Phoenix as general manager of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. in 1996. After five years of building the business, he and his wife Josephine decided to start Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auctions. Co-owner Josephine Alcazar has been called the Queen of Catering, the event guru, and THE EVENT Architect Whiz for the Southwest. Her partnership with her husband simply made sense, she says.
Together they set out to carve their place in the world of collector automobile auctions by giving the community a unique, boutique style auction. Her role in the company has grown throughout the years, and she now runs the sponsorship, promotions, charity, and event logistics for Russo & Steele.
The company’s reputation for hospitality and customer service has been reported to be â€œsecond to noneâ€ and it is Josephine’s influence that has enabled Russo & Steele to this reputation.Â
Josephine has a tradition of giving back to the community by hosting a charity event prior to each Russo & Steele Auction event’s opening night; charities such as Autism Awareness, Trends, Breast Cancer, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Emily Center, as well as fund-raisers for the Phoenix Zoo and Phoenix Ballet