- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

For some American car buyers, taking an overseas vacation, picking up a new BMW at the European factory, and having it shipped back to the States after the holiday is all part of the sweet smell of success.

Going to Europe to take delivery of a new car is a money-saving enterprise for those who know how to capitalize on it.

Martha McKinley, a BMW spokeswoman, says there are many repeat buyers who periodically travel to Germany to take delivery of their new car, drive it around for a European vacation and then have the vehicle shipped back to the States as a used car. She says the cars must be ordered through a U.S. dealership, and must be a vehicle built to U.S. specifications to be registered through a state division of motor vehicle.

Air carrier Lufthansa even offers a special fare for customers who fly to BMW’s factory in Munich. With the purchase of a round-trip economy ticket, a companion flies free. Purchasing a business-class ticket means the companion’s fare is discounted 75 percent. This offer is available only to BMW customers who buy their vehicle through the company’s European delivery program by Dec. 31.

Cars bought with cash may be kept in Europe for up to six months. If the car is leased through BMW financial services, it must be exported to the U.S. within 30 days. BMW dealprocess, from ordering and insuring the car to arranging shipment. However, it is necessary to reserve the car three months before a scheduled overseas pickup. BMWs such as the Z4 and X5, which are made in the U.S., can’t be picked up in Europe.

Other European importers, such as Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo, offer similar plans. More than 100,000 Mercedes-Benz cars have been purchased through its European delivery plan over the past 40 years. The Mercedes plan also offers a 7 percent saving off the U.S. manufacturer’s suggested retail price for C-Class, E-Class, SLK and CLK-class vehicles. The savings can range from $2,000 off the price of a C-Class to up to $7,000 off the price of the S-Class AMG. Only vehicles produced at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant are available through the European delivery plan.

Mercedes-Benz offers customers using its plan one night at any of a dozen first-class hotels. The plan provides 15 days of European road insurance, without a deductible, plus two vouchers to cover the taxi fare from the airport to the hotel in Stuttgart and to the European delivery center.

Car buyers may also take a 90-minute tour of the Sindelfingen factory. The Mercedes-Benz may be dropped off post-vacation at one of 13 places that will get the vehicle to the ship that transports it to the United States.

The plan includes marine insurance and ocean freight. There is no handling or shipping charge.

Volvo has the most generous European delivery program. After a vehicle is ordered at a U.S. dealer, Volvo provides free air coach round trip to and from Gothenburg, Sweden, and a free night at the Radisson Hotel in that city. After delivery in Gothenburg, the car may be driven in Europe for up to six months.

Volvo has a dozen points where the car may be left post-vacation and it will arrange shipment. Volvo says that buyers through its European delivery program are up 50 percent this year.

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