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Going to Meet a New Car in Europe

June 15, 1986|BETTY LOWRY | Lowry is a Wayland, Mass., free-lance writer.

GOTEBORG, Sweden — Of course we thought she would want one of those bulky Norwegian ski sweaters or maybe amber beads from Denmark. "What shall we bring you?" I asked.

"A Volvo DL wagon," she replied, then added quickly, "Don't look so shocked, Mom--I'm buying."

We were making arrangements to take delivery of our own Volvo 740 at the factory in Goteborg and planning other travel around it. While we were talking side trips and country inns, our visiting daughter was also doing some fast figuring and budget-balancing.

The result was that when we arrived in Goteborg a few weeks later we were to sign for two Volvos; the gross saving compared to U.S. costs was nearly $6,000, more than enough to pay for a trip even to pricey Scandinavia.

More Bargains

Other little bargains were included: free ferry transport for the new car from Sweden across the Baltic Sea to continental Europe or to England; discounts of about 25% at hotels in Goteborg; complimentary transfers between hotel and factory by taxi; an English language tour of the Torslanda plant.

Major on-site saving, of course, is driving your own rather than renting a comparable car in Europe.

This was our second experience buying a car abroad, the last one in Germany more than a decade ago. Although the basics haven't changed (you still place your order, choose colors and so forth in the United States), it is now even easier.

Our 1973 Capri had a basic cost, plus return shipment and insurance, plus customs. Volvo puts it all together, including the 2.8% U.S. tariff on arrival, so it is just a matter of going to the nearest port when notified that the car has arrived, signing a few papers and driving it home.

You may even be able to drive it with European license plates (depending on the laws of your home state), but overseas insurance is not valid in the United States.

Insurance Required

One month's overseas insurance is required, even when a car will not be driven abroad. When our daughter picked up her car in Newark it had six miles on it, presumably factory-to-pier distance, because we examined it outside the door of the Torslanda plant but did not go for a trial spin.

Further regulations mandated that the car be bought in my name and stay that way until it had cleared customs. So my daughter took along a simple power-of-attorney form even though I had already signed the car over to her so she could get her license plates and insurance.

Recommended time to allow between ordering for overseas delivery and getting behind the wheel is 8-10 weeks, with payment in full required 30 days ahead.

We shopped dealers and chose one near our home who was willing to match any rebate/discount offered by the big specialty outfits, as well as arranging a satisfactory trade-in on our old car. This was particularly helpful when our new Volvo arrived at a time when it was inconvenient for us to get it within the five working days the port agent allowed. The dealer sent someone, then checked the car over for us, a nice convenience.

Once in Europe we needed only our passports and U.S. driver licenses. It wasn't even necessary to spend the night in Goteborg, although we were happy we had chosen to spend several days in this pleasant city. We could have simply telephoned Volvo from the train station or airport on the agreed-upon day of delivery, given our names and order numbers, and been on the road within a few hours.

The Tourist Delivery Center sends a taxi to bring a customer to the office to sign final papers, pick out any last-minute needs (a flashlight or T-shirt, perhaps?), present keys, insurance, registration, green card and all the other paraphernalia of automobile ownership.

No Assembly Line

The plant tour, which takes about an hour, was an eye-opener: no noise, no assembly line; robots doing all the heavy and dangerous work; female operators in all phases of production; an impromptu Ping-Pong game in progress as workers took a break.

It would have been fun to arrive a few weeks earlier and follow our own future buggy through the birthing process.

All cars sold for eventual U.S. use must meet U.S. specifications, one reason that you can't just buy off the lot overseas. Take pollution control, for example. Catalytic converters can't be used in Europe because low-lead fuel is unavailable. Our converter was carried in the trunk until the automobile was readied for home shipment, then installed.

It is not necessary to take the car back to the plant, though by so doing, the 600-mile check-up can be performed there. We received and returned ours to Goteborg, but there is also free return to Antwerp, Bremerhaven and London, and both pickup and drop-off at additional charge to major cities throughout England and Europe. Goteborg to London is one of the most popular itineraries for American customers.

We were told that it varies a bit with time of year, but it took only 2 1/2 weeks for our Volvos to arrive in the home port, and we were given days of arrival information when we left them in Sweden. Our daughter had her new car long before she received her new sweater.

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Similar savings and arrangements may be made for BMW, Saab and Mercedes-Benz. Nearly any automobile manufactured in Europe to U.S. specifications may be bought and driven overseas, then shipped home. See your dealer for details.

Hotels offering the Volvo discount tend to be large and business-oriented (H. Europa, Ramada). If you prefer a smaller, more personal ambiance, try H. Lindson, Hvitfeldtplatsen 4, S-411 20 Goteborg, Sweden (10 rooms, $65 double with breakfast); Tidbloms, Olskroksgatan 23, S-41666 Goteborg, Sweden (45 rooms, $45-$75 double with breakfast); H. Ekoxen, Norre Hamngatan 38, S-411 06 Goteborg, Sweden (75 rooms, $60-$100 double with breakfast). Weekend and summer discounts up to 40%.

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