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European Diesel Delivery Programs

By Jonathan Spira on 12 March 2010
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Travelers, when visiting interesting destinations, frequently bring home a souvenir or two for friends and family members.  This past December I was finally able to bring home a diesel-powered automobile, namely a BMW 335d,   Until recently, picking up a diesel as part of a European Delivery program simply wasn’t possible in recent years.  Today, two car makers, Audi and BMW, offer diesels as part of those programs.

Every year, thousands of Americans take a trip to Munich or Ingolstadt with one goal in mind.  Unlike other tourists, they are not there for the beer, the Wiener Schnitzel, the museums, and art galleries.  The real reason for the trip: to pick up a new car at the factory.

Most European car makers offer European Delivery options to their customer, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, but only Audi and BMW offer European Delivery for diesels.

European Delivery is nothing new.  For years, these car companies have offered customers the option of picking up their cars at the factory.  After delivery, and being driven on the Autobahnen, Bundesstraßen, and Landstraßen of Europe, the car is shipped by the manufacturer back to the United States.  The trip has almost become a ritual for some; indeed a third of BMW’s European Delivery customers have picked up a car at the factory in previous years.

European Delivery packages include significant discounts (published discounts are seven percent; individual dealers will frequently offer even better pricing), discounted or free airfare, meals, and the thrill of a factory tour that is the birthplace of the car being picked up.

For many, the opportunities to see where the car is manufactured and to drive it in its native habitat, the German Autobahn, are major draws.  An added benefit is that there is, of course, no need for a rental car for the trip.

EARLY DAYS

Today’s European Delivery (also called Overseas Delivery, Factory Delivery, and Tourist Delivery) programs trace their roots back to the 1950s when members of the armed forces returning from Europe brought with them a taste for smaller, sportier European cars. Many soldiers and airmen shipped their own cars to the States.

At the time, with the exception of the occasional Volkswagen Käfer (Beetle), a foreign car was truly unusual in the United States.  Indeed, the eventual popularity of European cars was largely due to Max Hoffman, the Austrian emigrant automotive entrepreneur who, starting in 1948, single-handedly created the imported car business in the United States and during his career imported and/or marketed Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jaguar, and BMW vehicles.

In the mid 1960s, with the advent of the jet age, Hoffman, then BMW’s main importer, saw an opportunity to boost both sales and mindshare for BMW by offering prospective buyers the opportunity to take their first European vacation and drive around Europe in their own car (naturally, a BMW). The car would follow them back to the U.S., giving the traveler a unique experience, saving money on the car purchase, and eliminating rental charges.

Hoffman and BMW were not alone. Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Volvo, Porsche, and Volkswagen had all started to offer factory and/or European delivery to American tourists. Audi is a relative newcomer to European Delivery, having announced its first program in 2006.

Indeed, before safety and emissions regulations made it impossible to bring in a European-spec vehicle, enterprising car dealerships in Europe advertised their own European Delivery programs. Click here to continue to page 2.

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