Marc Zenati is the first to admit that he’s not your typical car nut. “I don’t really like to drive super fast,” he explains. “I have a family, so I like to drive safely and have a comfortable car. I do enjoy driving a Maserati or a Porsche, of course, but if you gave me a small Volkswagen or something like that, I’d be just as happy. It’s really all the same for me.”
Yet the owner of Monaco luxury car dealership MZ Motors would be the envy of many car enthusiasts when he reveals that when he does get behind the wheel, it’s usually one of the cars he has in stock. “Sometimes it’s a Porsche, sometimes it’s an Audi, I’m not really attached to one car,” he explains, adding that he would much prefer to be navigating the scenic bends of La Turbie, up behind Monaco, then at full speed in the fast lane on the highway. “I prefer to drive something that is responsive around curves,” he says.
But, growing up in Paris with a father and grandfather who were passionate about cars, there was never any doubt that this was the industry for him. “I grew up seeing my family changing cars all the time, so it’s what I do and what I like to do. I know I’m good at it and I love my job and I get to drive nice cars. It’s a mix of everything that’s good for me,” he says.
Zenati opened his boulevard Rainier III dealership two and a half years ago, after previously owning and operating a car dealership just across the border in Beausoleil called Monaco Auto. “My business is buying and selling cars, mostly luxury cars above 40 or 50,000 Euros,” he explains. Along with a showroom, he also buys to special order, and deals in supercars, limited edition models and “a few collectable cars as well, but the market is very small,” he continues
Yet, while his postcode may be MC98000, most of his business comes from outside the principality. “You may find this a little funny, but we don’t have so many clients from Monaco,” he reveals. “Here, people have the money to buy cars new, so I buy their used vehicles instead.” Cars in excellent condition, with low mileage and good history, Zenati understands these very factors not only uphold the price of a vehicle but also makes it a very attractive option for buyers in France and countries such as Germany. “More than 90 per cent of our clients come to Monaco in search of a car because they know that the market here is good value,” he says.
Along with a collection of up to 20 cars for sale at any one time, much of his business comes from buying to special order for clients after particular models, options and colours. And while these requests are often the most challenging, they also deliver the most satisfaction. “Once I had a client call to ask me to find a Ferrari Spider for his wife,” he says. It was two weeks before Christmas. “He asked for a special white – the pearl white – which is quite impossible to find, and he wanted the car in one week.” In the festive rush, Zenati sent an SOS across his extensive European dealership network and tracked down the exact model in Italy. “He absolutely wanted this car in this colour,” he says. “It was very complicated but at least his wife had her Christmas present! In the right paint! He was happy, she was happy, everyone was happy,” he recalls, laughing.
This client satisfaction is what drives Zenati in his business. “It’s all about the long-term,” he explains. “That’s what is important. When my customers decide to change cars, they give me a call, and that’s exactly how it should be. I take the car back and sell them something else, or I sell the car before they decide on a new vehicle.” As with all business, it’s these relationships that have laid the foundations for the growth of the company – as have the partnerships he has cultivated with luxury car dealers the continent (“I work a lot with Nordic and Eastern European countries” he explains), and with official dealerships such as Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche. No matter where he sources his stock from, however, there are certain criteria that must be met before Zenati brings a car into his dealership. “For me, what’s important is having a full history from the official dealer, to have a very big options list, to have the car in excellent condition and accident-free, and the original certified kilometres,” he explains.
The first to acknowledge that there will always be ups and downs in this line of work, Zenati does reveal that he is currently facing one very challenging bureaucratic obstacle. “France has recently introduced from very high taxes on registration, and it’s quite complicated for cars that have not been registered in France before,” he says, explaining that, for certain models from Mercedes or an SUV Bentley Bentayga for example, car owners are now are facing registration fees of between 15 and 20,000 Euros. “The government is definitely making things a bit harder for us,” he admits.
In response, Zenati says that he has started to adapt the type of cars he is selling. “If you have a car with an administrative fiscal horsepower greater than 35, well it’s going to cost you much more money to register. So I’m trying to work more with a brand like Porsche because it stays below this mark,” he explains. As he discusses these frustrations, it’s easy to see why he chose Monaco to set up his business. “There are a few reasons besides the obvious tax system,” he admits.
I also can’t help but get the feeling that Zenati’s life would be much easier if more of Monaco’s population were in the market for second-hand cars as well. “No matter the car, registration is fixed at one hundred Euros in the principality,” he explains. “So when you take delivery of a Bugatti Chiron worth 2.5 million Euros, you pay less to register it in Monaco than you would pay to register a Renault Twingo in France!” It’s an incredible situation, but then again, as he says, “Everything is just easier and better in Monaco.”