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      06-13-2009, 05:06 PM   #1
Grey Space
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US Car to French Specs?

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?
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      06-14-2009, 01:50 AM   #2
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Your car is still German but with US Specs. So you don't need any emission documents or whatsoever. They will remeasure the car upon arrival.
I got 315kW or 420HP (428PS) and 350 CO2, while BMW claims 309kW 0r 414HP (420PS) and 295CO2.
Not sure how the different countries in the EU deal with imports. However, Holland claimed to be very difficult, and yet it was easy to import the car.
Key points:
1. you must own and used the car for 183 days prior to exporting from the US.
2. you must use the car in the same manor as you did before in the US.
3. best is to use only privately (not for business).
Then you need to fill in some Relocation Customs papers in order the be tax exempt from all your all goods, not just the car.
Lastly, have the car prepared for EU traffic law:
- orange front leds should be off (only for turn signals allowed)
- fog lights and switch (only with rear fogs button)

That's all I can think of right now. Also EU (federal) law is higher than French (state) law, so not to worry about France being 'hard' to import.

Also I hope your French is good for filling out those French tax forms...

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Originally Posted by Grey Space View Post
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?
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      06-14-2009, 07:05 AM   #3
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I'm sure he'll chime in here if he's around, but PM E90M3CDFR. He owns an E90 in France and he's very smart about this kind of stuff.
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      06-15-2009, 07:42 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grey Space View Post
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...
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      06-15-2009, 11:18 AM   #5
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Gentlemen - Thank you very much for the detailed information!

My wife is a German citizen, and she is also fluent in French. These two things should make a transition to France much easier for us, I hope. She is privately employed by a Finnish company that has sites all over the world. Her current work location is a site in Kentucky. She lives there for about half of the year, so we have a Kentucky address I can use to legally obtain a Kentucky driver's license. Kentucky has a reciprocal license agreement with France.

The site where my wife would most likely be based in France is in Haute Normandie, near Le Havre. I imagine it would be easier and somewhat less costly to own a car like the M3 in that region, as opposed to Île-de-France. I am, however, very concerned about some of the items you mentioned - specifically, the high cost of insurance, and serviceability.

Again, I imagine that insurance costs for an M3 would be somewhat lower in Haute Normandie than in Île-de-France; however, we anticipate that our income in France will be substantially lower than it is in the US, especially if I am not able to obtain work (my French is not very good).

Serviceability is of great concern. These cars are very complicated, and I would not wish to be left on my own to solve problems if BMW dealers refuse to work on a US-spec car.

It seems that when the time comes for us to relocate, I might be better off selling the M3 here in the US, then taking the proceeds from the sale and buying a lesser car in France or Belgium. Does that seem wise?

Thanks again for your help.
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      06-15-2009, 01:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grey Space View Post
The site where my wife would most likely be based in France is in Haute Normandie, near Le Havre. I imagine it would be easier and somewhat less costly to own a car like the M3 in that region, as opposed to Île-de-France. I am, however, very concerned about some of the items you mentioned - specifically, the high cost of insurance, and serviceability.
....
It seems that when the time comes for us to relocate, I might be better off selling the M3 here in the US, then taking the proceeds from the sale and buying a lesser car in France or Belgium. Does that seem wise?
....
Grey Space, there is a good forum/board in French of M car owners at
www.motorsport-passion.com. I just joined it and they have been helpful on several issues. You might want to ask them there about servicing the car where you may be living. There may be a good independent shop to do the work. There are a lot of E46 owners on that forum.

Probably the most important thing--if it were me in your shoes--though would be to get an indication from BMW that the dealers in France would be allowed to work on your car, because with a US-spec car, you would need te dealer to reach out to BMW if you have a problem with the software/recalls etc.

Your situation may provide some other options though: if you wife is a German citizen, she may be able to return to Germany (EU) with a duty free vehicle on returning from overseas. If she then takes it to France, she may not need to register it in France for a while.

Also, I am pretty sure that BMW has a special purchasing program for certain executives/companies--you might want to ask BMW AG about that too.
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      07-31-2009, 01:06 PM   #7
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Besides Atny286 who posted earlier in this thread (and who also has a thread on which mods are needed to bring it to EU specs), I do not know of many people who reimported their M in the EU, but in my opinion, this is totally worth it! One of my colleagues relocated to Switzerland and him and his family brought their 328xIT with them, and registration was a piece of cake... after deletion of the the orange corner.

Of course the cost of ownership is higher there (insurance, gas, ...), but given the prices of cars in EU, who wouldn't like to ride his/her M rather than a Peugeot?? I would even rather take the bus or my bicycle during the week in order to be able to enjoy the M on weekends!!!

Also, I am sure that the dealers would be able to figure it out, especially if you approach one of your local dealers with a good attitude (and may be a good bottle of wine). I mean after all, they'd rather make (a lot?) money doing your service than none at all, even if they did not sell you the car. Worse case scenario, your wife could contact some of the German dealers who are used to servicing cars owned by US soldiers stationed in Germany in order to get the needed information. From Normandie you are also not that far away from Belgium or the Netherlands where you could find good dealers.

FYI, I am also considering relocating to the EU in the coming years/months, so let's stay in touch.

I say: don't be afraid and do it!!
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      01-26-2011, 11:12 PM   #8
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Thanks for the info, it is very interesting, I loved reading this post. I would love to receive more data on the subject. Uses car & used car parts market is raising highly these days. Car dealers are showing their interest in these. Actually i was searching about car donation old cars and car parts.
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      02-11-2011, 10:23 AM   #9
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your car is an 08 model so regardless of its origin you don't have a warranty in europe. its only 2 years from first registration. considering your financial situation when you move, its probably best to just sell the car in the US, feel things out after settling in, and go from there.
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      02-02-2012, 12:26 PM   #10
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It is challenging to let go of a precious old car that is beyond even a trade-in. Delivering it right to the trash garden can be center wrenching. Creating a car donation to a suitable charity organisation seems like a good switch, but, unfortunately, car donation is an place of charity organisation that is filled with scams and deceptive details.
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