Globe-trotters looking for a luxury European vehicle to drive to and from the airport can combine travel and a new-car purchase by taking advantage of special packages offered by several automakers.

Known as European delivery programs, these fly/drive trips save you the cost of renting a vehicle during your next trip to Germany or Sweden. BMW buyers, for example, could get the experience of piloting the "ultimate driving machine" on the no-speed-limit sections of the Autobahn in southern Germany near Stuttgart.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Saab and Volvo offer the most structured plans while Ferrari, Bentley and Rolls-Royce also offer the European pickup of their vehicles. With the latter group of manufacturers, the quantity of cars delivered through the program is much smaller than with the former group, and plans must be made with the dealer. And although each of the manufacturers offers a European pickup, the accompanying perks offered vary for each automaker.

European Delivery Programs






What all these companies offer, though, is the opportunity to pick up your new vehicle in an unusual European locale: the auto factory. Most programs confine European delivery to a handful of models, and very few limited-production, high-end options exist. You can, however, save up to 10 percent off a vehicle's MSRP by picking it up in Europe and -- in some cases -- receive up to $2,000 in a traveling stipend, free airline tickets or a pre-planned European dream vacation.

One monetary aspect that may hurt American consumers looking to pick up their cars in Europe is the state of the dollar-to-euro exchange: 1€ to $1.263 in June 2006, a weak exchange value for the dollar.

Once you have picked up your vehicle at the pre-arranged location, you may follow an itinerary put together by the automaker with your input. Volvo and BMW provide extensive trip-planning assistance while Saab leaves buyers to chart their own course. Once your stay in Europe is ended -- whether with a pre-planned tour or a trip of your own planning -- you bring your car to the designated drop-off location from where it will be shipped to the U.S.

Allow for an average of six weeks for door-to-door delivery from the European port to the lot of the local dealer with whom you made all of your purchase arrangements. All participating manufacturers cover the U.S. Customs fees and stipulations as well as maintain tracking websites that pinpoint the latitude and longitude of the vessel ferrying your vehicle stateside.

William Hoffman, a happy 2005 BMW 5-Series European Delivery customer from New York City, says that "the hardest part of the process was handing the car over to the shipping agent knowing that it will be about six weeks before you see it again."

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