>From Investor's Business Daily, front page, 2/14/97
Take the Scenic Route To A New Foreign Car Pick up your next set of wheels while touring Europe
Next time you find yourself haggling over the price of a new car, ask the dealer to throw in a trip to Europe.
Buying a car made in Europe and taking delivery overseas can save you money and get you a free vacation. It also gives you a chance to put your car's performance to the test while screaming down the autobahn or winding through the Alps.
Most major European automakers offer delivery programs. They typically include a reduced price and such amenities as insurance, a factory tour, museum visit, and complimentary meals and lodging. One other fringe benefit: You can save a bundle on rental-car fees while touring Europe.
"It's really intended for individuals who are planning on vacationing in Europe anyway," said Mary Beth Craven, European delivery supervisor for BMW of North Amercica Inc., based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. "You have to pay for your airfare and take the time to go to Europe."
Manufacturers usually offer discounts of 10% to 15% off the manufacturer's suggested retail price to buyers who pick up their cars abroad. On a high-end model like the BMW 850CiA this means a savings of nearly $12,000 from the list price of $94,700. Of course, similar savings could often be had through haggling, except on the most popular models.
Aside from discounts, automakers offer lots of other extras. Mercedes-Benz of North America in Montvale, N.J., offers one of the most generous packages. You get a 90-minute factory tour of the company's Stuttgart factory, complimentary breakfast or lunch at the delivery center, 15 days' comprehensive insurance with no deductible, and two nights lodging in a fine hotel, such as the Inter-Continental. All transportation costs, including shipping, insurance, wharfage, customs duty, handling charges and ground delivery to your U.S. dealership, are covered.
Delivery orders are placed through your local dealership. With enough advance time - usually three months, but a minimum of three to six weeks - you can order your choice of model, color and options. You can arrange financing just as you would for a normal purchase, and even choose to lease. You then pick a date to take delivery and arrange your own flight. Some companies offer discounted airfare through certain carriers.
After picking up your car and taking a factory tour, you can enjoy a European vacation driving in your new car. Warranteed service and roadside assistance are generally available throughout Europe. At the end of your trip, you simply drop the car off at your choice of ports.
Some companies include insurance, while others make it available at a minimal charge. BMW includes a month, but you can extend it for up to a year. Mercedes includes 15 days. Saab, on the other hand, charges for any coverage. Drop-off and delivery policies vary widely.
BMW offers 18 drop-off cities at no fee, while Saab offers three and gives you the option of choosing 27 others at surcharges ranging from $60 to $750. Some companies also allow you to pick up your car in a city other than where it is made.
The cars are models designed for U.S. use, and they're identical to what you would buy at your local dealer. Some come with factory-installed European radios, which are then switched at no charge when your car arrives here. Certain U.S. options such as alarms, CD players and cellular phones can't be installed until the car is delivered.
Bruce Hearly, a venture capitalist in Cincinnati, said he took delivery of a Porshe 911 turbo last winter in Europe because he simply couldn't find the model at U.S. dealerships. And he didn't get the Porshe program's 10% discount due to the car's scarcity.
"There were only about 50 cars available, and they set it up so that everyone took delivery at once," he said. "We were all put up at this hotel in Stuttgart, and they had a dinner banquet, then the next day bused us to their test track, where a race driver took us around. After the factory tour, you take your car and go."
In Europe, buying a new car is a big event. And it's normal for many Europeans to pick up their cars at the factory, a practice that's unheard of in the United States. So when Americans go to Europe to pick up their vehicles, they're treated to restaurants and welcome centers that were originally developed for the locals.
"Rental cars in Europe cost two to three times what they do here," said Mercedes Fred Heiler. "Having the car is a significant convenience, especially if you're planning a trip to Europe anyway. We've put together a suggested scenic driving route through Germany, Austria and Switzerland, including six nights' lodging and some meals, for $1000 per couple, at places that are normally $300 a night."
"There is a cost savings," said Barbara Manha of Porshe Cars North America, based in Reno, Nev., "but you're probably going to spend a little more on your vacation. Our buyers are very enthusiastic about our products, and really want the factory and museum tours. Since they're sports cars, our buyers are interested in performance and enjoy the higher speeds on the autobahn."
Once you drop off your car in Europe, expect a wait of six to eight weeks for it to arrive at home.
For those who want the experience of a factory delivery without the wait, Mercedes aill soon begin offering such a program for its new M class sport-utility vehicles at its plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
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