Originally Posted by Grey Space
We're considering a move to France to further my wife's career. My reading indicates that even though my car was built in Germany, France considers it a "US-made" car since it was exported out of the EU to the US. I've been told that the French are even more particular about technical requirements than even other EU countries are when it comes to importing a non-EU car.
I know some members have imported their US-spec cars to other EU countries, but has anyone imported their car to France? If so, what did it take to meet French requirements? Is it even worth it to try?
Grey Space, I can't comment very much on the import process because I did not have to deal with it in bringing our US-spec car into France after BMW delivered it in Munich through their military/diplomatic sales program. Will your spouse be coming here as a private business person or with some official status (if latter, PM me and I can give you more details on the process which is quite easy and relatively painless). If your spouse will be coming to work privately, you may run into some intractable issues with a US-spec M3 in France (and esp in Paris).
First, you have to watch for things like rules that require that if your car cannot be re-exported duty free from France because it is stolen or totaled, you will be liable for the 30-40 percent duty normally assessed (VAT/duty). We have a special insurance policy rider that I negotiated in to cover that possibility. You can imagine what that would be like: have the car stolen and then have pay the super-hefty taxes after the fact...this is assuming of course that you are (as I think is the case) allowed to import one car duty free.
You should also check with BMW about whether they will let BMW dealers service your car here. When I first arrived in Paris, I was shown a letter that BMW France sent to each of its dealers saying that servicing of US-spec cars was forbidden (the exceptions are for cars purchased through the European Delivery program or diplomats/military). Even if you can overcome that issue, you will find that the French BMW dealers are not familiar with US-spec cars.
That won't matter with the normal servicing, like oil changes etc. But if they have to mess with electronic systems that are configured differently (radio, telematics, GPS), you may find they cannot (or more accurately said, won't) figure out how to fix things.
Cost may/may not be an issue for you, but I'll throw out some issues to consider: car theft is an issue for M3s and the like here, so you'll need to securely garage it for sure (looking at $400-500/month in Paris), and add a GPS tracker unit. Insurance will run you about 2-3x the US even with a spotless driving record. Servicing is about 2x as expensive, with things like oil changes 3x as expensive (if you can, bring oil for several oil changes). And of course remember that gas in France is one of the most expensive in Europe (currently around 1.4 euros a liter for 98).
Also make sure you have a driver's license from a state with a reciprocal agreement with France...otherwise you'll have to take the test and the school which is in French (...of course) and costs around $2000.00-$3000.00 (this is 2nd hand info). The French embassy in Washington has a list of reciprocal agreements with states for the licenses.
All that said, driving in France is a lot of fun (but an acquired taste), the roads are superb, especially the toll highways. M3s are super, super rare here (in fact there is I have been told only one M3 sedan in all of France...), while Ferraris and Lambos are literally parked on top of one another throughout Paris. Just this weekend I drove a friend to Le Mans for the 24 hour race and parked at the train station to avoid the mess at the track--a team car (Audi) drove by, and the driver stopped to ask me about the car (its debadged) and we ended up getting a personal ride to the track in an S4 avant.
Happy to help answer other questions if you go down this road. Just to throw out some other ideas: you may want to think about buying a French-spec car here and I can connect you to someone in BMW Paris that speaks English. Or, depending on how long you plan to be in Paris, you might want to think about taking European delivery of a car six months before you head back to the US...