Car purchase overseas inspires a European vacation, plus a visit to Corsica

This article appears on page 68 of the April 2008 issue.
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A view of some of the many sidewalk cafés in the southern Corsican city of Bonifacio.

by Vernon Hoium, Minneapolis, MN

If you are in the market for a new car and are considering a vacation to Europe, you might consider buying a car with overseas delivery. In the last week of September ’07, my wife and I purchased a 2008 Mercedes-Benz and drove through southern Germany, Switzerland and France, then spent some time on the island of Corsica.

Getting started

While we purchased a Mercedes, similar programs are also available from Audi, BMW, Volvo and possibly others. The first step in the process is to go to your local auto dealer and ask for the European Delivery Specialist.

Vernon Hoium alongside his new Mercedes.

We looked over the literature and decided what model we wished to purchase and with what accessories. The Mercedes dealership required a deposit of $2,000 to order the car.

The benefit of this program is that the price of the car is 7% less than the manufacture’s suggested price in the States, and you can probably negotiate an additional small discount off that price. I did.

You should place your order at least three months before your planned date of arrival in Europe.

Mercedes also sells a 5-day “Black Forest” package for about $1,200 per couple, providing a good value and a scenic trip.

We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then to Stuttgart, Germany. The Mercedes factory is located in a suburb of Stuttgart called Sindelfingen.

We left home on a Sunday evening, arriving in Stuttgart on Monday. I would caution you to not leave home later than Wednesday in any given week in order to arrive in Europe on or before Thursday. If you leave on a Thursday to arrive on a Friday and for any reason your flights are delayed, you will not be able to pick up your car until the following Monday.

Mercedes furnishes you with a taxi coupon for transport from the airport to the factory. Once you reach the factory, you check in and they start the delivery process. After you do the initial paperwork, you can take a factory tour and/or have a complimentary breakfast or lunch at the factory.

About two hours later a specialist, speaking English, will deliver your car and explain all the new features of the particular model. In addition, Mercedes will provide you with 15 days of insurance with zero-deductible collision coverage.

Before you leave the factory, someone will advise you as to where you can drop off your car in Europe for delivery back to the United States.

Getting the keys

After we checked in at the factory and they started processing our delivery, we went to the factory’s deluxe restaurant and had lunch. Mercedes provided a coupon for €65 ($91) which we could use for lunch or for official gifts (chocolate or wine) valued up to that amount.

By 2 p.m. we had completed all of the necessary paperwork and we set off from the factory. Our car had a navigational system into which the staff had input the location of our hotel for the first night.

The Akzent Hotel Torgauer Hof (Hirsauer Str. 10; www.akzent.de) was a quant little 3-star hotel with about 20 rooms (€112, or $157, per night), located only a few blocks away from the factory. It was in a residential area and the hotel manager was very helpful in suggesting a place for dinner that evening.

We walked a few blocks from the hotel, looking at lavish window boxes on buildings, to a square with about eight restaurants. It was the latter part of September and we still could have dinner at an outside table. Dinner for my wife and me, including a glass of wine, cost about €28 ($39).

This was a very quaint setting and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the Sindelfingen area.

On the road

The next morning we set off for Lausanne, Switzerland. We drove the Autobahn, so the trip took about six hours. Along the way we could see the rolling hills of southern Germany, the landscape becoming more mountainous as we entered Switzerland.

Beau-Rivage Palace on the shores of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In Lausanne we had made a reservation at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel, a 5-star directly on Lake Geneva, but we were advised at the last minute that the hotel was filled with convention participants.

Fortunately, Mercedes made an alternate reservation for Hotel Angleterre (pl. du Port 11; www. angleterre-residence.ch), which was alongside the Beau-Rivage Palace. This was a 4-star hotel but very elegant. The basic rate for either of these places is around €350 ($490) per night, but our stay was part of our overseas package.

After wandering around the grounds and looking at the lakeshore in the afternoon, we had dinner in their deluxe restaurant, which was very elegant. Our meal cost about €84 ($118), including wine.

The next morning we set off from Lausanne through France to the city of Nice. We drove both on secondary roads and the motorway in France. Visitors should be advised that tolls are charged on the motorway in France, which is not true in Germany or Switzerland.

Once we arrived in Nice, we spent the night at Mercure Nice Cap 3000 Aeroport hotel (800/221-4542, www. mercure.com), which cost about €130 ($182) for a twin room.

By the time we reached Nice, we had put about 575 miles on the new car. We decided we’d turn the car in at Nice and fly to our final destination, Corsica, since we preferred to rent a car while in Corsica rather than take a ferry and drive our new car.

The end of our test drive

When dropping your car off for shipment back to the United States, you must get explicit directions as to the location of your forwarding agent. Most of them can be anywhere in the city, usually in temporary buildings surrounded by chain-link fences. We had a bit of trouble finding our designated location, but eventually we turned in the car.

We were advised that the car would be leaving in the next three days by truck for Brugge, Belgium, to catch a car boat to Baltimore, continuing on to Minneapolis.

The one shortcoming of our overseas purchase was that it took approximately six weeks for the car to arrive. However, a benefit of overseas purchase is that a person over 70 years of age will have no problem obtaining a car, avoiding the restrictions that some rental companies have for drivers 70 years or older.

On to Corsica

After dropping off the car near the airport, we caught an Air France flight to Ajaccio, Corsica. Rarely visited by Americans, this is a delightful island about 100 miles long and 50 miles wide. The terrain is primarily mountainous, some peaks reaching about 9,000 feet.

At Ajaccio we rented a car for the duration of our stay. Most rental cars have a manual transmission, which is a bit of a challenge when driving on mountain roads.

We left the airport and drove to the city to stay at Hôtel Napoléon (4, rue Lorenzo Vero; www.hotel-napoleon-ajaccio.com). The rate was about €120 ($168) per night.

Over the next few days we drove around Corsica, thoroughly enjoying the mountainous scenery. On the first day we drove south from Ajaccio through Propriano and Sartène to the southernmost city of Bonifacio. We were amazed at the beautiful crisscrossing mountain roads, many of which were quite narrow with limited guardrails, making driving adventuresome at best.

The next day we proceeded north, heading for the city of Porto. We didn’t go directly there, however; instead, we drove the interior through the city of Evisa and encountered some of the most spectacular mountain scenery we have ever seen anywhere in the world.

Island activities

The island of Corsica is known as the birthplace of Napoleon, but today it is a real mecca for bicyclists. We saw a number of them there and were really sympathetic to them when we saw the challenging hills and mountains that they were traversing. This is not a place for a timid or beginner bicyclist.

The southern part of the island was filled with fishing and pleasure boats ready to sail the Mediterranean. We were impressed with the vast amount of harbor facilities available to accommodate all of the boats located there. There was a definite seaport atmosphere and many sidewalk cafés.

Conversely, up north there were many mountain communities that were built right into the sides of the mountains and had very small populations.

Summing up

I would recommend that anyone considering a new automobile investigate an overseas delivery program and enjoy an auto touring trip of Europe. We are indebted to Sears Imported Auto (Minnetonka, MN; 952/546-5301) for their assistance in planning this trip.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
A view of some of the many sidewalk cafés in the southern Corsican city of Bonifacio.

by Vernon Hoium, Minneapolis, MN

If you are in the market for a new car and are considering a vacation to Europe, you might consider buying a car with overseas delivery. In the last week of September ’07, my wife and I purchased a 2008 Mercedes-Benz and drove through southern Germany, Switzerland and France, then spent some time on the island of Corsica.

Getting started

While we purchased a Mercedes, similar programs are also available from Audi, BMW, Volvo and possibly others. The first step in the process is to go to your local auto dealer and ask for the European Delivery Specialist.

Vernon Hoium alongside his new Mercedes.

We looked over the literature and decided what model we wished to purchase and with what accessories. The Mercedes dealership required a deposit of $2,000 to order the car.

The benefit of this program is that the price of the car is 7% less than the manufacture’s suggested price in the States, and you can probably negotiate an additional small discount off that price. I did.

You should place your order at least three months before your planned date of arrival in Europe.

Mercedes also sells a 5-day “Black Forest” package for about $1,200 per couple, providing a good value and a scenic trip.

We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then to Stuttgart, Germany. The Mercedes factory is located in a suburb of Stuttgart called Sindelfingen.

We left home on a Sunday evening, arriving in Stuttgart on Monday. I would caution you to not leave home later than Wednesday in any given week in order to arrive in Europe on or before Thursday. If you leave on a Thursday to arrive on a Friday and for any reason your flights are delayed, you will not be able to pick up your car until the following Monday.

Mercedes furnishes you with a taxi coupon for transport from the airport to the factory. Once you reach the factory, you check in and they start the delivery process. After you do the initial paperwork, you can take a factory tour and/or have a complimentary breakfast or lunch at the factory.

About two hours later a specialist, speaking English, will deliver your car and explain all the new features of the particular model. In addition, Mercedes will provide you with 15 days of insurance with zero-deductible collision coverage.

Before you leave the factory, someone will advise you as to where you can drop off your car in Europe for delivery back to the United States.

Getting the keys

After we checked in at the factory and they started processing our delivery, we went to the factory’s deluxe restaurant and had lunch. Mercedes provided a coupon for €65 ($91) which we could use for lunch or for official gifts (chocolate or wine) valued up to that amount.

By 2 p.m. we had completed all of the necessary paperwork and we set off from the factory. Our car had a navigational system into which the staff had input the location of our hotel for the first night.

The Akzent Hotel Torgauer Hof (Hirsauer Str. 10; www.akzent.de) was a quant little 3-star hotel with about 20 rooms (€112, or $157, per night), located only a few blocks away from the factory. It was in a residential area and the hotel manager was very helpful in suggesting a place for dinner that evening.

We walked a few blocks from the hotel, looking at lavish window boxes on buildings, to a square with about eight restaurants. It was the latter part of September and we still could have dinner at an outside table. Dinner for my wife and me, including a glass of wine, cost about €28 ($39).

This was a very quaint setting and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the Sindelfingen area.

On the road

The next morning we set off for Lausanne, Switzerland. We drove the Autobahn, so the trip took about six hours. Along the way we could see the rolling hills of southern Germany, the landscape becoming more mountainous as we entered Switzerland.

Beau-Rivage Palace on the shores of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In Lausanne we had made a reservation at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel, a 5-star directly on Lake Geneva, but we were advised at the last minute that the hotel was filled with convention participants.

Fortunately, Mercedes made an alternate reservation for Hotel Angleterre (pl. du Port 11; www. angleterre-residence.ch), which was alongside the Beau-Rivage Palace. This was a 4-star hotel but very elegant. The basic rate for either of these places is around €350 ($490) per night, but our stay was part of our overseas package.

After wandering around the grounds and looking at the lakeshore in the afternoon, we had dinner in their deluxe restaurant, which was very elegant. Our meal cost about €84 ($118), including wine.

The next morning we set off from Lausanne through France to the city of Nice. We drove both on secondary roads and the motorway in France. Visitors should be advised that tolls are charged on the motorway in France, which is not true in Germany or Switzerland.

Once we arrived in Nice, we spent the night at Mercure Nice Cap 3000 Aeroport hotel (800/221-4542, www. mercure.com), which cost about €130 ($182) for a twin room.

By the time we reached Nice, we had put about 575 miles on the new car. We decided we’d turn the car in at Nice and fly to our final destination, Corsica, since we preferred to rent a car while in Corsica rather than take a ferry and drive our new car.

The end of our test drive

When dropping your car off for shipment back to the United States, you must get explicit directions as to the location of your forwarding agent. Most of them can be anywhere in the city, usually in temporary buildings surrounded by chain-link fences. We had a bit of trouble finding our designated location, but eventually we turned in the car.

We were advised that the car would be leaving in the next three days by truck for Brugge, Belgium, to catch a car boat to Baltimore, continuing on to Minneapolis.

The one shortcoming of our overseas purchase was that it took approximately six weeks for the car to arrive. However, a benefit of overseas purchase is that a person over 70 years of age will have no problem obtaining a car, avoiding the restrictions that some rental companies have for drivers 70 years or older.

On to Corsica

After dropping off the car near the airport, we caught an Air France flight to Ajaccio, Corsica. Rarely visited by Americans, this is a delightful island about 100 miles long and 50 miles wide. The terrain is primarily mountainous, some peaks reaching about 9,000 feet.

At Ajaccio we rented a car for the duration of our stay. Most rental cars have a manual transmission, which is a bit of a challenge when driving on mountain roads.

We left the airport and drove to the city to stay at Hôtel Napoléon (4, rue Lorenzo Vero; www.hotel-napoleon-ajaccio.com). The rate was about €120 ($168) per night.

Over the next few days we drove around Corsica, thoroughly enjoying the mountainous scenery. On the first day we drove south from Ajaccio through Propriano and Sartène to the southernmost city of Bonifacio. We were amazed at the beautiful crisscrossing mountain roads, many of which were quite narrow with limited guardrails, making driving adventuresome at best.

The next day we proceeded north, heading for the city of Porto. We didn’t go directly there, however; instead, we drove the interior through the city of Evisa and encountered some of the most spectacular mountain scenery we have ever seen anywhere in the world.

Island activities

The island of Corsica is known as the birthplace of Napoleon, but today it is a real mecca for bicyclists. We saw a number of them there and were really sympathetic to them when we saw the challenging hills and mountains that they were traversing. This is not a place for a timid or beginner bicyclist.

The southern part of the island was filled with fishing and pleasure boats ready to sail the Mediterranean. We were impressed with the vast amount of harbor facilities available to accommodate all of the boats located there. There was a definite seaport atmosphere and many sidewalk cafés.

Conversely, up north there were many mountain communities that were built right into the sides of the mountains and had very small populations.

Summing up

I would recommend that anyone considering a new automobile investigate an overseas delivery program and enjoy an auto touring trip of Europe. We are indebted to Sears Imported Auto (Minnetonka, MN; 952/546-5301) for their assistance in planning this trip.