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      03-16-2017, 09:07 AM   #1
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Drives: 2008 BMW M3 Coupe Space Grey
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Mainz

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E92 Import to Germany

I don't post here much at all, but I thought I'd share my experience:

I have a 2008 E92 M3, purchased new in the US. We moved to Germany in 2016, and I brought my M3 with me (civilian/non-military relocation) Based on the info provided by the German Embassy and TÜV, I thought it would be a straightforward experience to bring the car here. It was not.

The car was purchased and registered in Tennessee, with a clear TN title and registration.

I shipped the car in a container to Bremerhaven as part of our household goods, and it sat in the port for two months while German Customs deliberated over whether to allow entry. The paperwork that I was told I needed to import the car turned out to be insufficient. German Zoll demanded more paperwork, but never actually told me what they were looking for. I sent document after document proving ownership, registration, etc., until one day they finally told me they'd had enough, without ever telling me which document(s) satisfied their bureaucracy.

I picked up the car in Bremerhaven in mid-October, and drove it to our new home in the Mainz region. I was told that I could drive the car for up to a year on the Tennessee plate, but I almost immediately started getting harassment for not having a front license plate (Nummerschild), including parking tickets and letters from the local Ordnungsamt. I was able to obtain an Umwelt Plakette (environmental sticker) for the car from the local KFZ, so that I could drive it in Umwelt zones, but that process was difficult, as they did not like my Tennessee registration. I had to bring a German translation of the TN registration document for them to approve the Umwelt Plakette.

We called TÜV Rheinland to find out what needed to be done to register the car in Germany, and they told us to bring it in for a Vollinspektion (Full Inspection). I made an appointment, but upon arrival the inspector refused to look at the car. He insisted that we first get a Datenblatt (data sheet) on the car from TÜV Nord to determine whether the car was importable. TÜV Nord at first refused to even acknowlege that they could do this, and then came back after a month to say that they could generate a new Datenblatt for 350 Euros, since, as they claimed, no one had ever tried this with this particular car.

Ultimately, we found a local BMW dealer who walked the car through the process. We were told that the 2008 model was a "Weltweit" car, with European markings on the lights, and other features, so we had few changes that needed to be made. Later versions (2010 LCI and beyond) apparently need substantial modifications to meet European standards, as they have US-specific lights, seat belts, and other country-specific items. I was fortunate in that I had already replaced the US-specific headlights switch with the European switch, so the fog light works.

My made-in-Germany Dunlop Wintersport 3D tires were declared illegal, so I had to buy a new set of winter tires/wheels to satisfy TÜV. The local BMW dealer sent the car to an independent programmer in Gummersbach, who reset the iDrive language to German, and changed a few other things (and broke my navigation system voice). The electronic speed limiter was eliminated. My US radio does not work properly, and the dealer ordered a new European radio, but it's on permanent backorder, so no telling when it will ever show up. BMW AG has been supremely unhelpful in this whole process, telling the dealer that they do not support re-import of US-destination cars.

Eventually my car was approved by TÜV, and I was able to register it. Despite being told that it was straightforward process, it took 6 months, and cost me more than anticipated.

If you need to relocate to Europe from the US, I strongly recommend that you sell your car.
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