Romans International is the UK’s leading independent luxury car dealership with a reputation for stocking some of the most sensational cars in the world. We talk to long-time owner Paul Jaconelli about how it all began and what are the keys to it’s success?
- Did you originally start the company on your own or was your brother on-board from the beginning?
I worked with my brother Marc when we were a lot younger in the industry but Marc went to work for Mercedes-Benz and ran several dealerships in the franchised sector but I decided to go independent and build my own business which years later he became a part of.
- What is your background (have you worked in the industry previously) and what inspired you to start Romans International?
As a youngster both me and my brother bought Jaguar XK120 Dropheads and fell in love with cars and from then on we have been working in the industry ever since starting off as salesmen, before I went on to manage one of the most successful Fiat and Alfa Romeo garages in the UK which helped build the platform for Romans International.
- Why did you choose the name Romans, is there a story behind that?
Romans was actually a well-known dealership that I aspired to when I was a kid but unfortunately it closed down. Years later in 1994 I decided to buy the name from the receiver, I liked its connection with Italy where my family was originally from and I wanted to put my own family stamp on the Romans name.
- What difficulties did you experience when you first set up? (Financing, insurance, sourcing stock and premises etc.)
It was difficult starting out on your own and although I had good experience in the industry it was hard to get the funding in order to operate at the highest level of the market. It was a long hard slog and I had to work very hard in order to build the reputation and establish the business which in those days without the internet was not easy!
- If you were starting again today, what would you do differently?
Nothing, I believe that looking back into the past will give you a stiff neck, I prefer to live in the present and look to the future.
- How difficult is it to source good quality super cars and how far do you search? (UK only, Globally?)
It’s the most difficult part of the business to source the quality of cars that we have become known for selling. The vast majority of our cars come from the UK but for the very rare expensive cars we often have to look globally and we have recently bought some very special cars from around Europe and from the Far East.
- Do you export cars to clients based abroad, can you tell us the furthest you have shipped a car or the most bizarre story of one?
We always try to sell our cars in the UK where we hope to get a part-exchange, look after the customer and hope to buy the car back when the time comes for them to sell it. Despite this we do have a selection of high profile clients and collectors from overseas who we tend to sell some of the rarer cars to in places such as Bahrain, Thailand, Japan and even New Zealand.
- No doubt you have experienced and driven most brands of super car, do you have a particular favourite brand and why?
Ferrari – it’s a predictable but easy answer. They have consistently been the most collectable marque and they are always raising their game in the face of increasing competition and there is still nothing that stirs the emotions quite like sitting in and driving a Ferrari.
- If money was no object, what car would own and why?
Ferrari 250 SWB California Spyder in Dark Blue – to me it’s the most beautiful car ever made.
- What has been the best or most expensive car Romans has ever sold?
McLaren F1 which is probably worth today $15 million.
- What has been your most disastrous day at work (has anyone ever crashed a car on a test ride, have you ever been robbed of stock etc.)
In 1989 when interest rates suddenly went up to 15% overnight, the value of our stock literally halved the next day.
- Just recently there have been several programmes on TV that promoted the idea that classic supercars can make a good investment. Can you give us your thoughts on this? At what age does a car become a classic or ideal for an investment?
Supercars and especially classic cars can be a fantastic investment. The market for collectable cars has really been thriving for the last few years with values soaring for the rarest and most sought after cars. There is no set age where a car becomes a good investment, each model is different – the appeal is these cars are becoming like art, whether it’s a Ferrari 250 California Spider or a Ferrari Enzo these cars are so iconic and will never be made again so will keep appreciating in value.
- What brands are best for appreciating in value, what condition should investors consider.
Ferrari is without a doubt the best brand for investors – the cars that achieve the highest prices at auctions often are Ferraris but you should consider other brands too. Classic Aston Martins have become extremely valuable whilst limited edition modern Porsche’s like the Carrera GT or the GT3 RS 4.0 have more or less doubled in value over the last 2 years. You should always look for low mileage cars with good history for the best investment.
- Can the car actually be used on a regular basis or should it be stored in the correct conditions to ensure it holds its value?
It’s a shame to know that plenty of people are buying these investment cars with no intention of actually driving them they just see it as an appreciating asset. These cars are made to be driven so you shouldn’t feel guilty for driving them but yes to ensure they hold their value then keep the mileage down as best you can whilst keeping it maintained regularly. Potential investors can contact me at any time should they wish to discuss this further”
- What has the company got planned for the future? (New brands or premises etc.)
We are always looking at ways of expanding and there are several things we are currently considering but ultimately we want to grow our reputation further as the best dealership in the UK to buy and sell supercars.
- This is no doubt a family run business, do you have any junior members of the family that will eventually join the company? (Your children, cousins etc.?)
My son Tom currently works in the business full-time and helps run it day to day with my brother Marc but I have 5 children in total, who knows one day they might all end up working at Romans including my 1 year old daughter – she’s already in training!
- And finally, what do you feel sets Romans International apart from your competitors and why should they deal with you?
I think being a family run business allows us the freedom to operate more nimbly and offer a more personal service to our customers whilst we aim to maintain the disciplines of a larger franchised business. Our blend of experience and youthful enthusiasm is something we savour in how we run the company but what really sets us above the rest is our extremely high standards of both what cars we stock and how we prepare and present our cars.