Ask Jake Sydorowicz, vice president and general manager of World Imports USA, a direct question and he’ll give you a straight-forward and honest answer.
“You’ve been in the car business since 1989. Have you ever seen anything like 2020?’’ he was asked in early December.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. It was worse with that ‘Cash for Clunkers’ crap we went through [in 2009] when gas was four bucks and the government was giving you money to smash cars,’’ said Sydorowicz. “I thought that was more lunatic than anything else’’ — folks dumping gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs for smaller cars, even if they were upside down and had negative equity.
“It was the same panic as people buying toilet paper and paper towels [last March],’’ he said.
Jake Sydorowicz is grateful business at his independent dealership hasn’t been interrupted by the coronavirus.
“I think we’ve been really fortunate we haven’t had to shut down,’’ said Sydorowicz, adding that his staff has been “very careful’’ and so far virus-free. “I have some friends in New York and New York State, and they got crushed. And now they’re back to another phase of closings now. We do business with some people in California and they were shut down.
“I cannot imagine what it would be like if we had to shut down for two to three months,’’ he said. “You know, you take it for what it is. Crazy election, crazy everything.’’
Reflecting back on the past year and dealing with an unprecedented pandemic, Sydorowicz won’t deny that he came out of 2020 basically unscathed.
“I think there was a little bit of a drop, but the used-car business has been good,’’ he said. “I think it was only a small drop because the competition is getting stronger and stronger. You can’t be competitive if you just want to sell the same vehicle, because there’s always someone selling it for a dollar less.’’
It’s been an eclectic collection of vehicles that have enabled World Imports to separate itself from other car dealerships — ever since Sydorowicz and business partner Claus Lukner relocated the dealership from Rochester, N.Y., to Jacksonville in 1999.
“We’re in the niche market,’’ Sydorowicz said. “We’ll do a little bit of uniqueness for people to shop here.’’
The dealership upped its game in 2020 with the infusion of rare and totally restored classics in its “Collector Series.’’
For example, World Imports shipped a couple of 2018 Mercedes-Maybach G-Class AMG G 650 Landaulets to its Beach Boulevard dealership. Not made for the U.S. market, they’re two of only 99 built, each having only 49 miles. One recently sold for $1.1 million to a billionaire in South Florida. The second ultimate G Wagon is still available and on display in the showroom; list price is $1.195 million.
Just recently, Sydorowicz sold a 2019 Lamborghini Urus Mansory Venatus Wide Body SUV — the only one found in the world — to a buyer in Missouri for $479,000.
“There is so much money out there,’’ Sydorowicz said. “A lot of people have made money, especially this year. People who are well invested are spending money.
“For us being a niche business, I still can enjoy buying a primo car, knowing that most of our customers who look at our inventory want something that is primo,’’ he said. “They know that what you get is what you pay for.’’
One doesn’t have to be a billionaire, though, to afford a unique vehicle from World Imports’ Collector Series.
In Sydorowicz’s showroom are three BMW Z1 Roadsters that were never made for the American market. The low-mileage 1989, 1990 and 1991 five-speed convertibles range in price from $84,900 to $109,900.
And, while the 2021 Land Rover Defender was earning MotorTrend‘s SUV of the Year award, 1990s Defenders were trending in popularity at World Imports.
The dealership has a partner in the Netherlands who restores these iconic British four-wheel-drive vehicles to heritage specs. Two recently sold — a 1992 Defender 110 five-door soft top 200 TDI to a buyer in California for $159,000 and a 1995 Defender 110 five-door 300 TDI to a customer in Vail, Colorado, for $100,000. There is a 1991 Defender 110 model on the lot for $99,900; more of these Defenders are scheduled to arrive soon.
“What we’re doing a lot is importing from Europe again,’’ Sydorowicz said.
However, you’ll also find Sydorowicz in front of his computer, working the internet and auctions to find desirable American-made vehicles for his Collector Series offerings. Take for instance the three Plymouth Prowler Roadsters (1997, 2000, and 2001) and a pair of red retro-styled 2004 Chevy SSR trucks with less than 2,500 miles that are available for some cruisin’ fun.
Sydorowicz likes to keep an inventory of between 100 and 110 vehicles. The number of lines fluctuate around 25 imports and domestics. His best-selling line is Mercedes-Benz; he credits the German automaker’s revamped lineup in recent years for the increased interest from customers.
Complementing the inventory is a selection of Lotus Evora GT sports cars as World Imports USA houses Lotus of Jacksonville, an authorized Lotus dealership.
What does Sydorowicz see for the pre-own market in 2021?
He was naturally straight to the point: “I think it’s going to continue to do what it’s doing.’’