By on March 18, 2007

33522.jpgThis wasn’t the first time I’d opted for European delivery. In fact, after counting all the license plates I’d collected from these international adventures, I discovered I was on my eighth visit. Normally, when my wife learns I want to go to Stuttgart or Munich, she digs in her proverbial heels. So I had to package my automotive connection with a week in Paris. I made the arrangements to pick up a BMW 335 at the Munich factory. Here’s how the deal went down…

My local BMW dealer booked my order, and then faxed my specifications and delivery date to the Fatherland. After factory approval, I filled out some simple forms, made a copy of my passport and faxed ze paypaz to Germany. In exchange, I received a five percent discount off the U.S. list price (the dealer is free to discount further). Done.

European rental cars are dull and expensive; figure that’s another $2k saved. Oh, and you also get to ignore the break in period and drive as fast as you dare on unrestricted segments of the Autobahn. As the MasterCard voice-over guy says, priceless.

As this was my fourth visit to BMW’s Munich HQ in two years, the staff treated us like old friends (i.e. they treated us with a certain awkward formality that would have instantly disappeared whilst imbibing local beer in a neighborhood rathskeller). After signing the inevitable insurance form (the European delivery package includes two weeks of “free” insurance), my hosts demonstrated a raft of electronic features I’ll never use, handed a picnic lunch and wished a safe journey. 

Our first destination: the Rhine River, about 300 miles distant. As we were motoring during harvest time, I wanted to stop en route to let my wife could experience Federweisser. That’s the German wine made from the first press of the grapes (like Beaujolais but nowhere near as frivolously named), traditionally served with a kind of onion quiche.

We stopped at the first decent looking town along the Neckar river: Bad Wimpfen. Meine Deutsch was good enough to accomplish the task at hand. Our appetites sated, we spooled-up the twin turbos and headed to Stromberg for Johann Lafer’s reknowned kitchen.

Cruising at 110mph on the Autobahn, you soon realize why German car makers couldn’t give a rat’s ass about cup holders. Who’s got time for coffee when the slightest mistake would take a half mile to conclude.

We arrived just before dark, just in time to unclench my hands from the wheel and freshen up for dinner. Our room was in an old castle tower, three stories tall, on the hotel’s third floor. For those of you keeping track, the bedroom was five floors from the restaurant. Excessive consumption of wine was… problematic. Fortunately, I was served the finest steak I’ve ever eaten (from Austria, no less) and, um, rabbit.

The next day we crossed into Luxembourg. I was only able to average 24 mpg in Germany. Restricted to a maximum of 80mph, I achieved closer to 30 mpg. Good thing too, since fuel cost upwards of seven bucks a gallon.

I wanted to go to Luxembourg, if only because I don’t know anyone who’s been there. We enjoyed a world class museum designed by I.M. Pei (not I. R. Baboon) and flaming garlic shrimp (Portuguese style) from Chez Bacano. Our third day included a jaunt across Eastern France, with pit-stops at Nancy and Metz, before settling in for the night outside of Reims.

I enjoyed the three finest glasses of wine of the entire trip: a 1999 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champagne, a 2003 Puligny Montrachet and a 1999 Phelan Segur Bordeaux. My wife, who does not drink, savored every last drop of the Bordeaux. Of course, three or more ducks relinquished their livers for our gluttonous gustatory satisfaction.

The next morning we drove to the Charles De Gaulle airport to drop off the 335 at the shipper: TT Car Transit (easily located by Terminal 3). Unfortunately, the gentleman who normally handles my paperwork was delayed in traffic. As I had a plane to catch, his assistant located the Main Man via cell. He talked all three of us through the procedure.

Six signatures later, I removed the front license plate as a memento of the experience, handed over one of the car keys and let the nice lads at TT whisk us off to my departure terminal. Six weeks later, I picked up my ride, safe and sound, at my local dealer.

If you’re leasing your new Bimmer, you get one free month; so you pay for the car without possessing it for a couple of weeks. If you pay cash, payment in full is required 30 days prior to pick up. The warranty expires in four years, but the memories last forever.

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41 Comments on “Car Buying Tips: European Delivery...”


  • avatar
    tcwarnke

    Jay, that’s a great story. You implied that you’ve also done this through Porsche (Stuttgart). I was wondering if the process was just as easy. Also, do you pick the car up right at the Zuffenhausen factory (maybe at the new show room)?

  • avatar
    bythehour

    Ohhhhh, I’m envious. I have just put ED of a BMW (or MB) on my lifetime “to do” list!

    Just out of curiousity, what about the so-called “break-in” period? Is there any harm in going from the factory to autobahn (and 110mph) in a single day?

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    How were you able to ignore the break-in period? Is the factory’s prescription for the break-in routine overdone? I was tempted myself with European delivery, but the autobahn is hardly a place to drive it slow for the first 3,500 miles.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Some family members of mine did the European delivery for their 2003 BMW 325xi, they thoroughly enjoyed it. My father just ordered a new 335i just last week, no Euro delivery though

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I have never done Euro delivery with Porsche since there is an upcharge to do so, while Mercedes and BMW (and Audi and Volvo) offer discounts. I have done the Mercedes Euro delivery six times and hope to do another this September during the Frankfurt show. Stuttgart and Munich are both great places to visit. Munich is my favorite city in Germany, but the Mercedes delivery center and museum is the better experience.

    Regarding the break in period- I was instructed not to exceed 4,000 RPM for extended periods on the Autobahn, but they winked at me when telling me. This is still good enough to hit 115 MPH, with the occasional spurt to 145. Heck, you are in Germany, how could you resist?

  • avatar

    Speaking of Luxembourg newbies, I spent a few days there this week, visiting old friends, and found this lovely Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 in the garage of their apartment building: http://belsoseg.blog.hu/2007/03/15/fezza330

  • avatar

    Ah, the 1999 Phelan Segur Bordeaux — a few nice memories got evoked there.

    Great trip – makes me want to move to the US and order a car. Getting one here in Europe suddenly seems so trite.

  • avatar
    allen5h

    Dang! I gotta try this sometime myself, but in a Honda. Does Honda build cars in Germany? Anybody know?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Great read, Jay.
    I really don’t get why more BMW and Benz buyers don’t do ED. You save $2K, which can pay for a nice vacation if you are careful with money.

    My guess is that they can’t do it because they lease and would be without a car for a few weeks after their vacation. Yet another reason to own.

  • avatar
    Brendan

    Now I’m hungry and want a BMW. Thanks a lot.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Great story. I didn’t realize that ED could be such an experience.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    SherbornSean:My guess is that they can’t do it because they lease and would be without a car for a few weeks after their vacation. Yet another reason to own.
    Maybe I misunderstood what you were getting at but you can buy the BMW rather than lease and still do ED. I want to do it for my next BMW.

    For those thinking about it, the BMW forum bimmerfest.com has a whole section on ED, with all sorts of tips from people who have done it. There are some other sites out there that have info as well. Happy reading!

  • avatar
    Luther

    Jay, Have you been to the Technic museum in Sinsheim? I highly recommend it!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    What a great story! Your new ride sure beat the Renault Megane I rented on my last trip to Europe. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Jay.

  • avatar
    johnc_22

    I’m picking up my 335i sedan in less than 2 weeks. The savings were huge compared to what dealers are doing here, and my car was priced very close to Euro invoice rather than Euro MSRP. My trip won’t be as extensive at yours but since I’ve never been to Bavaria I’ll be spending my time there. Can’t freakin’ wait!

  • avatar
    dancote

    My wife and I took delivery of a 2000 Volvo S80 at the Factory Delivery Center in Gothenburg Sweden. At the time I was working in England for the Boeing Company. We were part of a group of 12 couples who flew over from UK for an annual “Viking Tour” conducted by a UK Volvo dealer who specializes in Military and Diplomatic sales.

    Volvo representatives met us at the airport (videotaping the airplanes landing and our boarding the (Volvo) tour bus for the trip to our hotel). After a quick lunch hosted by the Volvo dealer we repaired to our rooms clean up and get a bit of rest bofore the evening’s festivities.

    Back on the bus for some excellent local beer on our way to a medieval castle for a Viking feast. First the traditional toast in the castle’s stables then to our dining room where we partook of an excellent meal delivered to our tables by fur-clad serving wenches and were regaled by a pair of viking minstrels. Drinking games ensued. All being video-taped. Up way too late. Drinking way too much.

    Breakfast the following morning at the hotel followed by another bus ride to the delivery center. Tour of the facility (where S80s are built) followed by final paperwork and some last minute accessory special offers and individual delivery of our cars. Pictures, videos, etc.

    We now had a day and a half to do whatever. We had coupons for water taxis, cultural events, restaurants, etc., but most of us just wanted to drive our new cars.

    On day 4 we boarded an ocean-going ferry for the trip back to UK. Video-taped of course. Dinner,clubbing and breakfast courtesy of our UK dealer.

    Drove the car for the next year then delivered it to Germany (one of 12 European drop-off points as I recall) for shipment to a local US dealer of my choosing. Side note: On one stretch of autobahn I decided to see how fast the Volvo would go. Reached my prudent limit at 110 indicated when another S80 behind me started flashing his lights to pass.

    In Germany we picked up a US-spec Kawasaki Nomad motorcycle and toured Europe for 21 days before shipping it home as well.

    The Volvo was waiting for us when we go home. The Kawasaki took a little longer.

    If you’re in the market for a Mercedes, BMW, Volvo or Saab, do yourself an enormous favoer and opt for European Delivery. (Sorry, ED just doesn’t sound right any more.)

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I am glad you liked the experience, Jay!

    I certainly liked the write-up. Your article provides a new point of view of my home base.

    So: where are the US delivery offices for the Mustang I was thinking of buying?

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    awesome read! my father did a ED of his 944 back in 1986 and he has about 4 albums full of pictures. i hope i can have the same experience at some point!

    For some reason I want to say Corvette does something similar but I could be way off.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Bowling Green?

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    yea, i thought they did a factory tour and pick-up…obviously not nearly half as cool as the euro-pickup but atleast they are trying haha

  • avatar

    For some reason I want to say Corvette does something similar but I could be way off. You are correct. "At a minimal cost of $490" Chevy offers option R8C, delivery at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.  The new owner gets to see his/her car on display in the Museum (and friends can see it via a webcam), get a "VIP" tour of the Museum and the Corvette assembly plant across the road from the Museum, and plaques, certificates and a sticker on the door jamb indicating the car was delivered in this manner.  The Museum delivers 7-800 cars per year. For those who have an older Corvette, the Museum offers the "NCM Xperience" for $350 where they will clean up your car and put on display, give you the VIP tours, commemorative plaques, etc. as if it were the Museum delivery of a new Corvette.   For more information, you can to to the Corvette Museum Delivery Page or the NCM Xperience Page at the Corvette Museum web site.  (And yes, this is a very big deal to Corvette diehards!)

  • avatar
    vento97

    Dang! I gotta try this sometime myself, but in a Honda. Does Honda build cars in Germany? Anybody know?

    In a word – no.

    European delivery implies just that – European cars. Japanese, U.S. and Korean cars need not reply.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Correction for previous post:

    Japanese, U.S. and Korean Cars need not apply….

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    Great information, from these experiences I think I would go for the Volvo delivery plan. Too bad the French or Italians aren’t offering any type of program, I am sure their reception and party before delivery would be to die for.

  • avatar
    SGillmeister

    I have recently taken delivery of a Corvette. Should you be interested in the Museum Delivery, note that the “Buyer’s Tour” is different from the delivery tour, and costs $350. This is the priviledge of walking along the assembly line to watch YOUR car being assembled. Watching cars being built is fascinating, watching your own baby come together is very compelling. Process takes 5 hours, and you start the car, and can sit in it during post-assembly diagnostics and calibration. Then you wait 12 days for the delivery, for quality hold.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Jay and dancote’s experiences — as well as the recent editorials on dealers — got me to thinking.

    All carmakers want to increase consumer loyalty, but the buying experience tends to drive buyers in the opposite direction. Endless negotiation, finance guys who are professional fleecers, bickering over warranty repairs, etc.

    These days most people leave the dealership thinking “never again.” On the other hand, inport buyers like Jay will always look back at their purchase fondly, and it will emotionally bond them to their vehicles.

    I love the idea that SGillmeister detailed of actually watching your Corvette being built for you. If nothing else, it shows the confidence GM has in the factory that it allows buyers a look “under the hood.”

    How could you not think “yup, that’s my baby!” as you watch your vehicle come down the line. That’s the kind of buyer who is meticulous about maintenance, who waxes his car on Saturday mornings, who tells all his friends about how wonderful his ride is.

    It’s also the kind of guy who doesn’t buy on price.

  • avatar

    Sean, you make some good points. Unfortunately, the purchase process has to start with a dealer, so even with factory delivery you can't factor the dealer out of the picture. And I know, at least from the Corvette side of the fence, if the dealer has anything in stock that he thinks is close to what you're wanting to order (close = has the same color tires), he's going to try to discourage you ordering one so he can move a unit off his lot.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Good writeup. Hope you are enjoying the 335i. I have hopes of a 135i at some point unless BMW over prices it.

    Keep in mind you’ll have to wait a period of 4-6 weeks (perhaps more can’t remember) where you will need other transportation while your new car is on the boat.

  • avatar

    # allen5h:
    There is a European Honda production plant in Swindon. near London (c.f. http://world.honda.com/news/2006/c060928UKProduction/)

    Perhaps they can arrange something for you.

    But given the speed limits there and their habit of driving on the wrong side of the street…

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I think that Honda has imported to the US from the UK in the past. As I recall, production of the CR-V was constrained and they were imported, or was it Civics?

    Anyhow, there might be a niche market for ED of the Type-R Civic, provided Honda can move the steering wheel left.

  • avatar
    browner

    Great article! The only European car I can afford, VW, is also the only European manufacturer not to offer European Delivery :(

    Here’s my understanding of European Delivery: order your new BMW/Audi/M-B/Volvo through a North American dealer; the manufacturer flies you to the factory; you pick up your new car and enjoy a couple weeks on a driving holiday; you drop the car off at a shipper; the manufacturer delivers your car to your dealer; you pick up your car at your dealer.

    If that’s how it works, um, how does it work?! Why is it profitable for the manufacturer to give you a European vacation? Does the import tax change? Do you temporarily own the car, sell it back to the manufacturer, then you buy a ‘used’ car from your local dealer? Is it a loss leader to keep customers loyal?

  • avatar
    kasumi

    I believe the import taxes on a “used” car even if it is driven a few miles in Europe, are much less than a new car. Last year my mom did European delivery for a Volvo S80. What she really liked was how the transaction was completed in minutes. She walked in with the European delivery info from Volvo and ordered her car without the usual sales hassles. The purchase included two round trip tickets and a night at a hotel along with the factory tour.

    I believe that this all this is “free” for Volvo, while others charge extra for travel, hotel, etc.

    K.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    At the other end of the spectrum…..That sounds a great deal more upscale than the one of the more memorable 528e acquisitions I made last May. My wife and I, along with #1 son and GF checked out a non-titled,but free 528e in Newport RI. The car started easily and I promised to remove it from the guy’s driveway the following weekend. Then off to a winery in Little Compton for wine tasting and a picnic lunch. I forget what the wines were exactly, but most were whites. All were delicious and we bought a few bottles. After lunch, we drove eastward to another winery in Westport to sample a few methode champagnois sparkling wines. All were quite nice and we bought a few more bottles. The following week end I drove the 528e home where it has since provided many usable parts for both my 528e and the spousal unit’s 528e.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I think the reason the manufacturers have these programs is because it is such a bonding experience for the buyer and it creates loyal customers.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I recently checked into the Saab program – roughly a $4k discount off MSRP, and a $2k travel allowance, as well as a night in Trollhattan, tour of the factory and museum, and opportunity for various drop off points throughout Europe (varying fees $350-750). Quite a deal if you planned to visit Northern Europe…the $2k barely covers flights to the general area. 6-8 weeks for your car to show up at the local dealership.

    Great idea, though – certainly much more memorable then just jogging down to your local dealer….

    I wish the Mustang plant in Flat Rock offered a similar program to the Corvette….

  • avatar

    My two sons took Euro delivery of a 335 last fall – right around Octoberfest (coincidence?).

    Their trip blog is here: http://www.farroar.com/

    Unfortunately, the US dealer made some mistakes in the order and the boys had to take a 325 instead. Not a bad deal altogether, as they were really able to “enjoy” the car without reservation.

    Prior to their departure, they did a stint at the BMW Performance Driving School, which they highly recommended. Take any car you like and beat the snot out of it!

  • avatar
    Andrew Comrie-Picard

    Having taken delivery of three cars this way I recommend the approach. Like others, I wish it could be done in North America.

    One dizzies at the potential of a European buyer taking delivery of their Uplander at Doraville, Georgia and proceeding on a whirlwind tour (max 55mph) of American inner cities while pounding cases of watered-down beer, eating at Denny’s, and staying in highway HoJos.

    Ah, maybe I’m not being fair. Paris has some dodgy hotels and bad wine too.

    Yeah, I don’t care either.

  • avatar
    seldomawake

    Congratulations on your new 335!

  • avatar
    Garret

    Great story. Reminded me of my experience of a time long ago when we picked up our new 1971 Porsche 914 in Amsterdam. Drove it for a month through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and back to Amsterdam. Such a neat way to travel. Basically we saved the money it would have cost for a rental car. But if you are thinking of it, do it for the experience. Not to save the bucks. Thanks for the memories.

  • avatar

    Great writeup. It’d be nice if the Japanese manufacturers could put together a similar program.

    Volvo has an annual special event for their Overseas Delivery Program that caters to a specific group of buyers. In the past, they’ve put together an event for S60R/V70R buyers that included the usual free vacation/air tickets, but on top of that, they were able to attend the Formula 1 race at Spa, and learn how to drive their new cars on the test tracks in Sweden.

    I for one salivate at the thought of taking a new car around one of the circuits in Japan.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    We have done ED twice with BMW, and it was great both times. The first time we took the factory and museum tours which were really great (the BMW museum tours are booked months in advance, so it’s a real benefit of ED).

    Also, the price is fixed in the buyers favor, like the writer said. The dealer MUST give a certain discount, or more (he gets a break on the wholesale so he still makes about the same as list).

    It was hassle free, and win-win all around. I highly recommend it if the logistics work out for you and you can wait to get your new car (which can be tough!) It also REALLY builds loyalty. We have bought 2 BMW’s since our first ED in ’99.


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