In 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.