By on June 28, 2007

flyndrive.jpgIn 1959, William Lederer and Eugene Burdick wrote The Ugly American. The novel was celebrated by self-loathing intellectuals, who agreed with disdainful Europeans that Americans are far too stupid and arrogant to play any "useful" role in world politics. Yeah, well, screw that. If you're a latter day pistonhead willing to represent in the Eurozone, I suggest you do your bit to grace the Olde Worlde with American wit, intelligence, insight and humility. Buy your next ferrin' car via a European delivery program.

The process is simple enough. Head down to your local franchised new car dealer, check book and passport in hand. Tell the shysters you'd like to buy car "X" with your choice of options. Oh, and you want to pick it up at the factory or at "select pickup locations across Europe." Then watch the smile disappear from your salesman's face.

Here's the good news (for you): buying your car overseas is about five to 13 percent cheaper than an American handover. This discount does not reflect a reduction in taxes or duties, as many buyers are lead to believe. It's down to the fact that cars delivered in Europe are excluded from most or all manufacturer-to-dealer incentives and kickbacks. Hence the salesman's dismay and the lack of European delivery posters thereabouts.

As an example, I took delivery of a 2006 Volvo V70R på Svenska. I saved over $6k (13 percent) off the manufacturer's suggested retail price and the deal included round trip airfare. 

Six automakers currently offer Yanks European delivery: Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Saab. Of course, if you're buying at the tippy top of the luxury car market, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Bentley will all pander to your autobahn ambitions. They'll pick you up at the airport, arrange your accommodations and charge you great big stacks of cash to shuttle your ride stateside (forget that discount).

BMW and Volvo are the big boys in the Euro delivery game. They continually jostle for Number One bragging rights, delivering around ten cars per day to American owners. Mercedes clocks in at number three with some 1300 cars delivered in 2005, and the others round out the bottom with significantly smaller numbers. BMW and Volvo's higher volumes make their programs the most polished. They provide more assistance in travel planning, packaged holiday tours, route planning and special events.

A few months after your order, you can fly to Europe to pick up your new whip. Depending on the manufacturer, you may be offered a factory tour, a ride in their stretched limos and bratwurst or a meatball or two (the Saab lutefisk lunch deal has thankfully been dropped). Once you've racked up a few miles of smiles, you drop your car off, fly home and wait six to 14 weeks for your ride to arrive stateside.

The shipping doesn't cost you a dime; all Euro delivery programs' pricing scheme include shipping, duties, fees and destination charges. The dealer can arrange dockside pickup, registration and home delivery. All European delivery-mobiles are 100 percent North American spec vehicles (sorry kiddies, no Euro-only models) equipped with U.S. spec lights and emissions control systems.

And now the downsides…

Under the terms of all European delivery programs, you must buy your new car before it actually exists. The first month's loan or lease payment is typically due before your car is even built. Since banks and credit unions are a little wary of loaning money on cars that have yet to be screwed together, you're usually stuck with the car manufacturer's finance company or paying cash.

You must pick up the car yourself; your kids can't vacation in your new 3-Series convertible and your mistress can't swan around in your (her?) new Mercedes Benz. The program is not available on certain BMW models like the Z4 or X5, or select Mercedes models (ML, G, GL, R) or the infamous Trollblazer Saab 9-7x, as these models are manufactured stateside. (Somehow, "Alabama Delivery" just doesn't have that je ne sais quoi.)

When abroad, remember that much of the German autobahn is speed-restricted, and that many European police forces issue on-the-spot fines for accelerative exuberance. If you're prone to this sort of behavior, have a large wad of cash safely secured. Also, while the "Green Hell" (Nürburgring) may be on your "Before I Die" list, don't let it be the last item you ever tick.  

You don't want to smash your brand new car AND have to listen to Europeans sniggering about stupid, ugly Americans. That said, most Europeans are gracious hosts, happy to encounter an articulate American. It's not you Monsieur; it's your government that's causing all these problems. Whether or not you agree, you'll have done your part for international relations, saved a bunch of money and had one Hell of a drive.

 Click here for a chart summarizing the various European delivery programs  

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44 Comments on “The Truth About European Delivery Programs...”


  • avatar
    nichjs

    From the UK, could I fly to the states, pay dollars for a new Ovlov and instead get it shipped to England? Sure, the steering wheel would be on the wrong side ;o), but heck for that saving, the increased insurance premiums wouldn’t matter… and I’d get another sweet hol in Svenland… :-D

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Well-written, well-balanced and right.

    As an aside, the other day the local paper (here in Germany) had a piece about a guy from the U.S. who let himself be provoked into racing a German. At an off-ramp, doing triple the legal limit of 30mph, the cops snagged him. Embarrassed (“I don’t know what got into me”), he paid the €4,000 bail, in cash, graciously.

  • avatar

    The Ugly American portrayed well-intentioned but naive Americans who were manipulated or rendered irrelevant by more experienced and cynical local politicos. Reading Confessions of an Economic HitMan would leave a rather different impression of American intentions.

  • avatar
    virages

    I came here. got my car in Europe and stayed. Besides, Alfa Romeo doesn’t have a european exchange program. The upside is that the food is better and the roads are more fun, but the downside is that the gas is more expensive. Try it out!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    This was an amazing piece of writing, I laughed a bit and learned a whole lot more about this mysterious program. Thanks, Alex!

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    This would be so cool, to tool around europe in my new BMW convert, Bert Wolf style. I go to europe alot, have rented alot of cars over the years, been stuck in autobahn traffic jams (THAT sucked…talk about expectations). Then have the car delivered here to remind you of a glorius vacation… ah bliss. Thanks for the article, and a brief moment to dream.

  • avatar

    I picked up a 325i in Munich several years ago and was delighted at the delivery process and subsequent opportunity to drive the car as it was meant to be driven (only following the break-in period). One sad note is to experience the exceptional quality of European roads, where even secondary roads are largely kept in superb condition. One wonders why the most prosperous country in the world has such poor standards for maintenance of roads. To anyone considering one of the eligible cars, you cannot beat the experience. The only downside is the four-to-six-week wait for your car after you have arrived back in the states. I thought it was well worth the wait and the chance to tool around for a couple of weeks in a place where people actually pay attention to driving is an experience no American (ugly or not) should pass up!

  • avatar

    Neat article. I had wondered what the deal was with European delivery. Thanks a lot for writing this! I wonder if the 1-series has this available…
    Now for some questions: Do these deals exist for non-European vehicles? (How about a S Korean or Japanese vacation?)
    What is the reason these do not exist (or will they exist in the future)?

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Great article. Very interesting and the chart is really helpful.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    neilberg:

    Do you really want to drive on Japan’s narrow, cramped and congested roads with a car that has the steering wheel on the wrong side compared to the road layout? Does the thrill of driving a Hyundai or Kia in their homeland really entice you to take a trip to South Korea?

  • avatar
    Luther

    “Somehow, “Alabama Delivery” just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi.”

    I wonder if Europe has an Alabama Delivery program.

    And don’t speed on Swiss autobahns because the Swiss police will make you park your car and walk into town to get the money…Lots of money…So I hear ;)

    I lived in Europe for 8 years and *seriously* miss driving where people can friggin drive. Maybe I will do the BMW delivery or perhaps pull a virages! Gas price be damned!

  • avatar
    brokenteeth

    There is no “Alabama Delivery”, but if you purchase a BMW you can opt for “South Carolina Delivery” at the performance Center adjacent to the factory.

    BMW Performance Center FAQ

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    Hmmm. Do the motorcycle manufacturers do this as well? I’d take Hinckley delivery of a Triumph, or Bologna delivery of a Ducati, Lake Como/Mandello for a Guzzi, etc…

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    edgett:

    One reason the roads are so nice in Europe is because the climate is milder and thus kinder to asphalt. A road in the typical US city has to endure temperature ranges from 0F to 100F in one year. The temperatures in Northern Europe range from like 30F to 60F all year round. Much kinder to roads!

    The other reason is, of course, the 40% income tax and 18% sales tax provides more funds for infrastructure projects.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    When I lived in Belgium I believe they required 40 hours of supervised driving time and over a $1,000 fee in order to earn a driver’s license. So, yes, they know how to drive.
    The US DOT would grind to a halt if we enforced such a policy.

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    edgett & Matthew Danda,
    Another reason roads are better in Europe, other than the high fuel taxes used on infrastructure, is the sheer amount of roads we have in the U.S. There is roughly 5 times as much paved road per person in the US compared to Germany.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I’ve thought of getting a BMW at some point, possibly through ED. The thing I don’t quite understand is if there is really any cost savings. You can find luxury dealers willing to give you invoice or near it. I know ED invoice is cheaper but once you add in the cost to fly to Germany, hotel stay, and then waiting a month for delivery isn’t the cost benefit mostly used up?

    So essentially if you don’t mind paying near MSRP and want a free European vacation anyway it seems like a good deal. Assuming you can be without a new car for 4-6 weeks while it’s on the boat.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Agreed with Steve_S above…it seems like the deprivation of use of the car for several weeks is the dealbreaker (or break-even-er). I’ve read a lot of these, and most travel/auto mags have broken it down to “if you already want to take a European trip, it’s a good way to go, but don’t do it primarily for the discount”

  • avatar
    PerfectZero

    I’ve actually done an Alabama delivery on an ML and it was surprisingly fun. They take you on an off road course to demonstrate its abilities, and you get the traditional tour of the factory floor. Although with today’s gas prices the drive back to California might not be as practical…

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    It’s always hard to squeeze everything into a readable article, so here’s some extra information:

    The programs exist for US and Canadian residents, or members of US and Canadian armed forces. Not all the companies offer military and diplomat sales and discounts (BMW and Volvo do). The military sales differ in that you can keep the car in Europe longer than 6 months without paying tax. Under EU law the ” euro delivery” cars must leave after 6 months or pay local VAT in the country they have been temporarily registered in.

    There are currently no programs that I know of that allow residents of other countries to participate in these programs, nor is there a way to pick up a US made car and take it to Europe in this fashion. There are several reasons for this, one is that the same model sold in the US is not sold in Europe as is because they don’t meet European standards for headlights, tail lights, etc. Sweden and Germany have worked with their car companies to create the laws and arrangements with the USA to enable this program to work. This includes special license plates, special insurance and registration arrangements, etc. Due to the relative low volume of sales to other countries it may not be an economical move to attempt to provide the same service to other countries.

    Euro delivery should not be seen as a money saving event since you will probably spend more on your vacation anyway. Deals vary by the manufacturer, but Volvo has probably the best deal going. Here’s an example: a 2007 Volvo XC90 V8 AWD Sport is $49,955 MSRP and $47,072 dealer invoice, but only $45,605 via OSD. This is a 9% savings over MSRP and 4% over invoice. According to Edmunds True Market Value and my own research you can get the XC90 V8 sport for Invoice price, this means your savings is $1,467. Now remember that with Volvo the 2 person round-trip air fare is free, and so is shipping (if you return it to the factory) and insurance for two weeks. So if you went on a 2 week vacation that you would take anyway, you’d save the $1,467 on the car, the $1000-$1500 on airfare and $650-$1000 on the rental car while you are there. Overall the big picure is not a bad deal, but you are right, don’t view this as a “we’re gonna go over there and P-A-R-T-Y while saving bank.” Bottom line, if you’re going to buy a European car anyway, and you want to go on vacation, you can save some cash on the package deal and get a much better car to drive there. Trust me, you do NOT want to try driving a rental Ford Ka on the Autobahn, doing so has all the thrill of watching high-speed rollercoasters from a wheelchair.

  • avatar
    stormj

    You picked up the car in Swedish? Methinks you mean “i Sverige” not på svenska.

    I was very tempted to do this once, and am tempted again. Thanks for the great article.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Seems crazy to me that the Big 3 don’t offer factory delivery on the Corvette, Mustang and Jeep. Given the enthusistic fan base for each, you’d think consumers would eat it up, even without cost savings.

    Jeep especially. They should have an off-road course to train/entertain new drivers. You might even require it of people looking to buy a trail-rated version.

  • avatar
    kasumi

    My mom did Yurp delivery for her S80. She really talks up the program and the purchasing aspects, ie check boxes, hand over money wait for Volvo to call to arrange your visit. I thought Corvette did some kind of factory pickup, but maybe they discontinued it. Being an Ohio resident and Honda fan, I think Honda should do something similar for their US-built cars in Marysville.

    K.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Corvette does offer a factory delivery program and its very popular amongst owners (at least the ones that post on Corvette forums)

  • avatar
    Areitu

    SherbornSean:
    June 28th, 2007 at 12:36 pm
    Seems crazy to me that the Big 3 don’t offer factory delivery on the Corvette, Mustang and Jeep. Given the enthusistic fan base for each, you’d think consumers would eat it up, even without cost savings.

    Regarding the Mustang, Dearborn, MI is probably not the nicest place to take a vacation.

    Given the massive discounts the Big 2.8 already doles out, any cost savings through a vacation program would be negated.

  • avatar

    kasumi: I thought Corvette did some kind of factory pickup, but maybe they discontinued it. Actually, it's delivery at the Corvette Museum, which is located across the road from the factory in Bowling Green, KY. Unlike many of the Euro delivery programs which give you a discount on the car, you have to pay an extra $480 for option R8C when you order the car. For that, the museum gives you the "VIP" treatment, a special tour of the factory, commemorative paperwork, decals, and plaques, and a one-year membership to the museum. They also put the car on display in the museum, and broadcast the delivery via web cams so all your friends can see it.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Frank,
    Thanks for the update.

    Areitu,
    I didn’t realize where the ‘Stang was assembled. An alternative, which might reduce dealer inventories, would be to do factory delivery digitally.

    Put cameras in the factory that track your order’s assembly so they can be viewed over the ‘net with a special password, and then send the prespective buyer an email at every milestone in the production process.

    Would build excitement and consumer interest, but would require Big 3 to work with their dealers. Pessimism returns.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    At the auto show this year I was able to position myself just right to look at both my vehicluar loves (the 9-3 and Mustang GT verts) with a simple turn of my head. Back and forth, back and forth.

    It was a slow evening, so the Saab lady comes over and asks “Are you thinking of a new car?”. I replied affirmative, buit that it would probably be the Mustang since the Saab was a little (maybe more) out of my reach finacially. She said “Two words: European delivery”. Then she explained the whole process, discounts, etc. After excitedly doing more research, it boils down to this: it pays off only if you already planned to vacation in that area, or if you want the thrill of seeing where your car was born.

    All in all, still a great idea. I do wish they had a program at Flat Rock for picking up your Mustang – the long trek back here to Texas would be a great bonding experience.

  • avatar
    omnivore

    Au contraire, I think Dearborn would be a great place to pick up a car. There’s tons of cool car-related stuff there. The Henry Ford Museum has amazing collections of classic machinery, and the new tour of the River Rouge plant is definitely worth the price of admission. Couple those car-related stops with a spin through the lovely parts of northern MI, and you’d have a great American-deliver program.

  • avatar
    ex-dtw

    Knew about the program and am just waiting to have the cash (sooner than later I hope) to set off for a new 3 series.

    The wife is even down with the plan, how great is that?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    A good friend is a teacher on an American Army base in Germany. He bought his mini-s there and said then when he finally moves back stateside, the military will ship his car here for free. So if you’re in the military there may be additional possibilities available.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    I think all products and services should have this foreign delivery thing. Y’know, fly to China to pick up a package of underwear, fly to Bangalore to get face to face tech support, go to Africa to pick up diamond earrings from a rebel warlord.

  • avatar
    freude am fahren

    Porsche charges a premium for European delivery, and you can forget about any free or discount airfare as well. I guess that helps keep them the most profitable car company.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    “The novel was celebrated by self-loathing intellectuals, who agreed with disdainful Europeans that Americans are far too stupid and arrogant to play any “useful” role in world politics.”

    I’ll assume that this doesn’t reflect your view, because that wasn’t the point of the book at all. Not even close!

  • avatar
    jurisb

    (well ,when europeans refered to americans being far too stupid and arrogant, they got it worng. Because americans ain`t arrogant. europeans must had been speaking of themselves……
    speaking of stupidity, it applies to percentage, not to the nation.)

  • avatar

    KnightRT:

    My reading of the book is quite clear.

    This is how a fictional character describes the Yanks screwing-up in Southeast Asia:

    “For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they’re frightened and defensive, or maybe they’re not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance.”

  • avatar

    That’s the same quote they use on Wikipedia, but I also recall the book quite differently. I recall the local communist party operative trying to spike the American milk program with Ipecac, then telling the local women that the American who caught him was going to put in a sexual stimulant. I remember the US distributing something in crates, but the locals writing on the crates in Sarkhanese that the largesse came from Uncle Mao instead of Uncle Sam.

    Arrogance was part of it, but they were basically out of their element and outmaneuvered. The only one that was successful was Homer. He and and his wife were very popular because they lived and worked among the Sarkhanese like jus’ folks, and were protected when the revolution came.

    I remember Ambassador MacWhite always winning the first set from the Chinese diplomat, but always losing the second set, and both being too tired to play a third. That was an obvious metaphor for the political situation at the time. Seems to me the locals won the third set.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’d be curious to know whether worker morale is helped at all by these delivery programs. If average workers get to occasionally meet-and-greet some of their customers, it might give them a greater sense of pride and purpose in what they do, day after day.

    If so, that alone might be a good reason for the US manufacturers to offer it. I’m only worried that we might not like what we see…

  • avatar
    hal

    All the US manufacturers should offer a program similar to Corvette (with free 1way airfare) across their range. I might not want a vacation in Dearborn but I might enjoy the roadtrip home. Dealers mightn’t like it but car buyers could benefit from learning about who, where builds their cars.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Yes, the military does allow one P.O.V. delivered free to the US (per servicemember/family). They also do not pay taxes on the vehicle UNTIL they arrive Stateside to register it.

  • avatar
    ThinWhiteDuke

    The Gwagon is built in Alabama? I think you mean Austria, guy.

  • avatar
    thedon

    We just pick up a Saab 9-3 Combi at the end of May. Drove from Trollhatten through Denmark, Germany,Austria, Italy, and left the car in Paris. The roads were beautiful and people friendly. Driving on the Autobahn when the speed limit ends and somebody in a big Mercedes leaves everyone in their dust shows I’m no longer driving in Michigan. The skill level of the drivers is above any I’ve seen in the states. No one drives in the left lane below the speed limit, it was great. We spent 15 days and did just over 2400 miles. From the local Salesman to the delivery person in Sweden this was one of the best new car experiences either my wife or I have ever had. Since the car has not been delivered yet there maybe problems yet. But our dealer Fox Saab in Grand Rapids, MI and salesman Joel Hugen seem to be able handle any problem. Yes, some parts of the purchase are inconvenient(the prepayment and the wait). But the enjoyment of driving in Europe makes up for the wait. My hope now is that BMW makes Mini Cooper available for their European delivery program in next couple of years.

  • avatar
    B2Stealth

    Thank you for such an informative article. I plan on taking advantage of the Mercedes Benz Exchange Delivery Program this summer. Question for you: When should I begin the ordering process for a 2009 vehicle to be picked up July/August timeframe?

  • avatar

    Now.


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