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Europe Has That New Car for You

March 22, 1987|JENNY MICHAELS | Michaels is a New York City free-lance writer.

Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a new automobile, traveling along the autobahn without the fear of violating a 55 m.p.h. speed limit, just enjoying the pleasure of motoring through Europe with ordinary cares dismissed.

With European Automobile Delivery Plans, that fantasy can become a reality. Buy and drive in Europe before shipping your new car home.

New cars and European vacations are both big-ticket items, requiring careful consideration. People considering the purchase of European cars should know that top European automobile makers offer programs that virtually underwrite the cost of a European trip.

The prices of car models in Europe are about 10% to 20% less than in the United States. The difference can pay for transatlantic travel. Further savings result when customers use their new cars to drive through Europe, thereby avoiding expensive auto rental.

Wide Choice of Makes

Top manufacturers offering European delivery include Alpha Romeo, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Details vary. In general, customers order cars through dealers near where they live. The required lead time is different for each manufacturer, ranging from several weeks to a year.

European delivery is open to U.S. residents who order within the United States, travel to Europe and return their cars to the United States within 12 weeks. Cars must be picked up by the title holder, with an official letter of confirmation and a passport.

All arrangements are made in advance with your U.S. dealer. You pay a deposit, and the balance of the price is due 30 days before the delivery date. If you order with sufficient lead time, your car can be prepared to your specifications. With less lead time you'll probably receive a standard car.

You Plan Your Trip

You make travel plans independently, arranging to be at the pickup point on the scheduled date. Automobiles may be picked up without additional charges at the factory, or at other delivery centers. For an extra charge the car can be delivered to another place specified by the customer.

It is unheard of for a customer to arrive at the factory, with papers in order and in hand, to be told "Sorry, we're not ready. Come back next week." Customers are guaranteed delivery dates and no blunders have been reported. Factories are very, very careful about scheduling dates. Sophisticated computerized production assures success.

It's a good idea to compare plans offered by different manufacturers for the deal that best suits you. For example, some plans cover insurance in Europe, others charge extra for it. Some include shipping, customs fees, duties and delivery to your door. Some include conversion to American standards (white fog lights, for example); others do not. Weigh the benefits of each program before signing up.

Another factor is the pickup point, and where you drop the car off for shipment home. Most manufacturers with European delivery plans are West German, with pickup points in Munich, Stuttgart and other West German cities. BMW's delivery point is the Freimann Delivery Center, about 20 minutes by taxi from the Munich airport. BMW pays for the cab.

Food and Films

The center is accommodating, with a cafeteria and complimentary lunch. Films about the making and care of BMW cars are screened. Maps and brochures are offered free, along with a touring book with four suggested itineraries for driving through Europe.

Further assistance is given in booking hotels along those itineraries. The BMW program includes a year of insurance, permits for driving in Europe, shipping by sea, and insurance, customs clearance (duties must be paid separately) and transportation to your dealer in the United States.

The program provides 10 free drop-off points in Germany and 13 in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.

Audi's major pickup point is at the factory in Ingolstade about an hour north of Munich, but there are five other no-charge pickup points in West Germany.

Audi's European delivery discount is only about 8.5% to 9.5%, depending upon model. The price covers transatlantic shipping, insurance, customs clearance (not duties) and delivery to your dealer in the United States. Audi also provides five free drop-off points in West Germany.

Free Cab to Factory

Mercedes Benz has a special section for American customers at its delivery center in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart. You get to the factory by taxi--Mercedes Benz picks up the tab. Rest at the center with a complimentary lunch and take a tour of the factory. Mercedes' program covers transatlantic freight, insurance and transportation to your dealer. There are 28 free drop-off points in Western Europe.

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