Imagine yourself behind the wheel of your powerful new automobile, speeding along the autobahn at 80 miles an hour.
That fantasy can become reality through various overseas delivery plans offered by European auto manufacturers, including Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Audi, Volkswagen and others.You order a European-made car from your local dealer, travel to Europe to pick it up, and drive it around during your vacation before having it shipped home.
European cars cost about 10 percent less in their countries of origin. The difference in price, plus savings on auto rental in Europe, might cover the cost of a European vacation or business trip.
For example, you'll pay $20,931 for a 1990 Audi Quattro five-speed sport sedan if you pick it up in West Germany, compared to the $22,800 list price in the U.S. Mercedes-Benz will offer you a top-of-the-line 560 SEC sports coupe at $73,350, compared with the $81,500 U.S. price tag. The company estimates that if you rented the same car for a month, you'd pay $5,600.
Some U.S. dealers offer deep discounts almost equaling European prices, but they can't match travel incentives.
Overseas delivery plans, offered only to U.S. residents, require customers to order and pre-pay before leaving for Europe, personally pick up cars (with documents and passport in hand) and, within a specified time period, ship cars home to local dealers, where cars can be picked up eight to 10 weeks later.
A key attraction is getting the most appealing make and model. But with varied overseas delivery plans, there are added factors to consider.
Most plans cover factory preparation, short-term registration, service and insurance in Europe (which may be extended up to one year at additional cost), inland shipping from dropoff points to port, conversion to U.S. standards (emissions controls and white instead of yellow head lights, for example), ocean freight, marine insurance, U.S. documentation fees, customs clearance and shipping to your dealer. U.S. duties may or may not be covered, so it's worth checking.
Some plans provide free or discounted trans-Atlantic airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, maps, trip-planning services and other incentives to sweeten the deal. One of Volvo's plans provides one free ticket on SAS to Gothenburg, Sweden, with a second ticket available for $499 round trip. BMW and Mercedes-Benz also offer discounted airfares to Munich and Stuttgart, respectively.
All three manufacturers provide an overnight stay in a luxury hotel, with continental breakfasts and luncheons, or rest and shower facilities at delivery centers. Purchasers also get factory tours.
Some manufacturers have one pick-up point; others have several, some with additional charges. Similarly, numbers and locations of drop-off points for export vary.
BMWs must be picked up at Freimann Delivery Center, about 20 minutes by taxi (BMW pays cab fare) from Munich, but they may be dropped off at 19 places in 11 countries. Mercedes-Benz delivery is at Sindelfin-gen, near Stuttgart, but there are 28 free drop-off points around Europe.
Volvo's Gothenburg center gives free car ferry transport from Sweden to Germany, Denmark or England. Or, at additional cost, Volvos are delivered at a dozen centers throughout continental Europe and Great Britain. Free drop-off points are at Gothenburg, Antwerp or Bremerhaven, with 20 additional European drop-offs at additional charge.
Volkswagen's various centers deliver different car models: Vanagon at Hannover, Jetta and Passat at Wolfsburg, Cabriolet and Corrado at Osnabrueck. Peugeot delivers cars to Paris airports. Alfa Romeo delivers near Frankfurt to avoid Italian auto registration red tape.
Manufacturers require different lead times. Two weeks to a month's notice is usual. Mercedes-Benz tries to accommodate last-minute shoppers, while Porsche (delivered at Zuffenhausen, near Stuttgart) needs a year's lead. With sufficient time, cars are prepared to specification. Otherwise standard vehicles are available.
Before buying, comparison shop through local dealers for the make, model and plan that suit your needs.
Enjoy the autobahn, but remember that when you get home, it's back to a safe 55 mph on U.S. roads.