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Old 17.03.2010, 02:23
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bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Has anyone done this recently (more or less recently)? We are contemplating bringing our car (2008 model 3 Series) with us when moving from California to Switzerland in the near future. If anyone wants to share their experience - it would be greatly appreciated. What do we need to pay attention to? Do we need a Certificate of Conformity (I have heard it's almost impossible to obtain that from BMW in CH)? What exactly did you have to change (front lights, indicators etc.)? Any lasting problems (Radio/GPS) or were you able to have the electronics reprogrammed for CH? Approx. how much did it cost to make those changes? Any trouble with insurance companies due to the fact that it is a foreign car? Thanks.
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Old 17.03.2010, 03:04
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

This question has come up a few times over the years. Here's some of the results I found when doing a search:

Importing BMW X5 35D from US to Switzerland

Buy new car in US or buy local?

Auto Insurance on imported car...

Car import - where and how do they know about 6 month ownership?

[Import] Bring car to Switzerland?

Volvo S60 import from USA

How I imported my car from the UK (yes, it is about a UK car, but it will give you some ideas...US cars are a bit different, but you'll see that in other threads)

Importing car from US to Switzerland - anyone has Honda Pilot?

Fees/taxes about car import from US

car import from USA

Car imports: what did you have to change?

Importing Car from US

Buying new car from US? (now that $=Franc)
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Old 18.03.2010, 02:48
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Thanks evilshell, I checked the treads. Especially useful are the folks' experience who actually brought a car with them. There are a lot of "theorists'" postings regarding importing cars. I am still trying to find out if anyone with USA beemers has been able to have their cars reprogrammed in order to make the radio/GPS work properly. There is a company (http://www.car-coding.de/index.html) in Germany that claims they can do this (at least for Germany). I haven't been able to get in touch with them and I am wondering if ANYBODY in CH can do this. Not expecting any help from BMW CH; I have already been in touch with them and they give me the "buy one here" attitude of course even though this will be a "Hausrat" import and not a gray market type of import.
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Old 18.03.2010, 07:24
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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Thanks evilshell, I checked the treads. Especially useful are the folks' experience who actually brought a car with them. There are a lot of "theorists'" postings regarding importing cars. I am still trying to find out if anyone with USA beemers has been able to have their cars reprogrammed in order to make the radio/GPS work properly. There is a company (http://www.car-coding.de/index.html) in Germany that claims they can do this (at least for Germany). I haven't been able to get in touch with them and I am wondering if ANYBODY in CH can do this. Not expecting any help from BMW CH; I have already been in touch with them and they give me the "buy one here" attitude of course even though this will be a "Hausrat" import and not a gray market type of import.
I know that the USA FM radio is kind of one wave out compared to Europe.
The GPS would simply be a matter of loading the Europe map software.

The parts department of a UK BMW dealership www.bmw.co.uk would be your best bet to find out as they speak the language. Birmingham dealership might be a good one to telephone; London Park Lane are stuck up their ar$e.
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Old 18.03.2010, 09:44
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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Thanks evilshell, I checked the treads. Especially useful are the folks' experience who actually brought a car with them. There are a lot of "theorists'" postings regarding importing cars. I am still trying to find out if anyone with USA beemers has been able to have their cars reprogrammed in order to make the radio/GPS work properly. There is a company (http://www.car-coding.de/index.html) in Germany that claims they can do this (at least for Germany). I haven't been able to get in touch with them and I am wondering if ANYBODY in CH can do this. Not expecting any help from BMW CH; I have already been in touch with them and they give me the "buy one here" attitude of course even though this will be a "Hausrat" import and not a gray market type of import.
Re Radio & Nav (I have done a lot of reprogramming BMW systems)

For your car:
Nav:
If you have the DVD-based map, then you can insert a new Europe DVD and the nav will work
If you have the harddrive based map, then you must purchase the map at BMW, because it needs to be downloaded onto the harddrive and you must buy a decryption key. Only available from a dealer at dealer prices!!

Radio:
The region coding of the radio is intrinsically linked to the vehicle region coding - in your case USA.
Changing the region coding was never foreseen by BMW and thus is not officially supported. Doesn't mean it cannot be done, but must be done by clever car "hackers" with the right tools.
After all, it is just a "software" setting :-) (but really hard to change - it has lots of flow-on effects in the whole vehicle)

Be aware that when changing region coding, all software updates available may possible no longer work, as the region coding is a core parameter for the vehicle.

I'd suggest you use the following steps:
1. Ensure the vehicle has the latest version software loaded BEFORE you change anything else. Note that you may not get new versions unless you explicitly ask the dealer to do this job!

2. Drive to Munich and visit Car Coding.de
I've looked at his website and based on my own personal experience doing this sort of work, this guy sounds like he knowns what he is doing and has good experience.
(I'm NOT going to offer to do it myself, because my experience is with the older generation BMW vehicles, and I do not have the tools for the newer cars)

MAKE SURE you know what system you have before you drive to Munich... do you have MASK, CCC or CIC?
BE AWARE that a new CCC or CIC system can cost a few thousand Euros (they are highly complex devices) and ensure you talk to car-coding.de about whether he can recode 2nd hand items, otherwise you may have to purchase new (which gets a bit tricky...)

Factor in the effort and costs when considering bringing the USA car to Europe.

But it can be done...
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Old 19.03.2010, 18:45
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Thanks FriendlyKiwi, that was very informative. One more question - what are these MASK, CCC, CIC systems and how would I figure out which of those are in my car?
Thanks.
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Old 19.03.2010, 19:03
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Don't want to rain on your parade, and I have no problem with shipping vehicles (I brought my motorcycle across with me from Canada).

But, I have to ask: What would possess you to want to go through the hassle and expense for this???

you do realize that there are different standards of quality for different regions right? A BMW produced for the USA or Canada markets is not even close to equal to a BMW destined for Europe... Much like Honda and Nissan for Japan, the exports are considerably lower quality for the most part.

Just sell yours in the states, and buy one on this side of the water.
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Old 19.03.2010, 20:22
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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Thanks FriendlyKiwi, that was very informative. One more question - what are these MASK, CCC, CIC systems and how would I figure out which of those are in my car?
Thanks.
mask, ccc and cic all all different types of bmw nav and audio systems

refer to vehicle manual, parts list, or simply google your vehicle details for more info
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Old 20.03.2010, 01:52
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Fridge thanks for your concern but I seriously doubt the quality difference of a 3 series BMW produced in Germany and sold in the USA vs. one sold in Europe (apart from maybe simpler headlights etc.). Heard that claim before, never seen any proof and I have driven BMWs in Europe as well as in the USA - don't see much of a difference. Selling a car in the current economic situation over here is not the most advantageous proposal and buying one in CH means big up front cost, not something I need when trying to reestablish myself over there. So far the cost for transportation and conversion still makes sense. I am just trying to find out if it is worth the cost of reprogramming the electronics such as GPS/Radio or if we are just going to live with the limitations the US versions will have.
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Old 20.03.2010, 02:15
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Thanks for the clarification FriendlyKiwi.
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Old 20.03.2010, 02:16
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Thanks Cashboy.
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Old 20.03.2010, 02:56
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

FriendlyKiwi already gave you great info, but I'll add my two cents. Although the frequency bands can vary by country, a U.S. FM receiver will work fine in Europe. I brought my 3 series from the U.S. two years ago, I have driven it in four countries here and the radio works fine not that I use it much.
So basically, all you need to do is buy the new NAV maps and you'll be fine.

As an aside, you'll often hear that the European Bimmers are different from the U.S. models. This is somewhat true. From a quality standpoint, there is no difference and in at least one way ours are much better... namely the fantastic U.S. BMW warranty. The warranty here is only two years compared to the five that my car had. This was an issue at the dealer when I had a problem because, unbeknown to me at the time, exporting your U.S. car negates the warranty. Thus your 2008 is already out of warranty locally and they won't honor it here. Also, U.S. models have governors in the electronic ignition so it will have a lower top speed than local models but really, even on the German autobahn, your opportunities to use that kind of speed are extremely limited and this is not an issue at all in my opinion. Finally, and this is important, when registering your car here it has to go through a rigorous inspection... you won't believe it until you see it... and the inspector will have all manner of issues with things like the location of the engine number being in a different place, the color of your turn signal lenses and so on. In the end, after a bunch of grief, I only had to have my headlights adjusted as our standard is different than the local one.

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Old 20.03.2010, 09:12
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

Don't most European cars sold in the USA have higher and softer suspension? Most European BMWs would catch the underside of the car just turning into the average US MacDonald's...
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Old 20.03.2010, 09:44
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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FriendlyKiwi already gave you great info, but I'll add my two cents. Although the frequency bands can vary by country, a U.S. FM receiver will work fine in Europe. I brought my 3 series from the U.S. two years ago, I have driven it in four countries here and the radio works fine not that I use it much.
So basically, all you need to do is buy the new NAV maps and you'll be fine.
NO!

BMW USA radios tune in 200kHz increments, as is standard in the USA
They stop on odd numbered radio stations, ie 101.1, 101.3, 101.5 etc

Here in Zurich this means you cannot tune to Radio 24 on 102.8 and 102.0

If you are in a town where by luck the radio is on an odd numbered channel eg 101.1, then you can receive it. But certainly you will have great dificulty receiving FM radio in Switzerland especially when the RDS tries to automatically change frequencies to those that cannot be received. So driving around and listening to DRS3 will be really frustrating.

I have a friend who had a USA BMW that wasn't reprogrammed to ECE.
He got so frustrated with the radio, and the other USA differences, eventually he sold the car and bought a ECE model.
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Old 20.03.2010, 10:17
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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you do realize that there are different standards of quality for different regions right? A BMW produced for the USA or Canada markets is not even close to equal to a BMW destined for Europe... Much like Honda and Nissan for Japan, the exports are considerably lower quality for the most part.
That is simply not true. For instance, the X3, X5 and X6 are ONLY made in America. The Mini you drive in America will have been made in UK and the 5 series and 7 series are only made in Germany (for the US and European markets; BMW do have plants in China for the Chinese market).

So in summary, you don't have a clue what you are talking about and you continue to spout the nonsense Swiss point that imports are somehow lesser quality.
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Old 20.03.2010, 11:55
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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NO!

BMW USA radios tune in 200kHz increments, as is standard in the USA
They stop on odd numbered radio stations, ie 101.1, 101.3, 101.5 etc
Yes, I'm aware of that subtle technical difference. But at the same time the vast quantity of low power local FM stations here means that you are constantly going in and out of broadcast ranges anyway while on the autobahn and any local station will "bleed" over the small difference.

I can tell you from empirical evidence that all of my U.S. digital receivers work fine here and that includes the one in my car.
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Old 20.03.2010, 12:39
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

You might ask the administrative officer of the US Mission to Geneva (or at the Embassy in Bern, but it's smaller) what the experience of American FSOs assigned to Switzerland has been. It's true that they are relieved of certain requirements (just as foreign diplomats can import for the duration of their stay -- just as foreign tourists can -- unapproved and uncertified models of cars to the USA).

But the Mission is likely to have standard advice they give out on the subject, and perhaps the names of garages that undertake conversion work.

When I was assigned to Geneva in the early 1990s I didn't bother registering my car locally. I took advantage of my status to keep a UK-registered car, and the only downside was I got only temporary passes for tax-free petrol.
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Old 20.03.2010, 12:51
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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That is simply not true. For instance, the X3, X5 and X6 are ONLY made in America. The Mini you drive in America will have been made in UK and the 5 series and 7 series are only made in Germany (for the US and European markets; BMW do have plants in China for the Chinese market).

So in summary, you don't have a clue what you are talking about and you continue to spout the nonsense Swiss point that imports are somehow lesser quality.

I think you've completely missed the point. Please wash the proverbial **** out of your cornflakes, and don't jump to conclusions. What part of "I brought my motorcycle with me" didn't you get? There's no problem with imports, it's not a quality of labor thing, or where it was manufactured, it's the intended market. Market discrimination is a very real and effective strategy employed worldwide in many industries whether you like it or not.

I'm basing this on the fact that most of my family spent the better part of the 20th century between North America and Europe, and several of them have been enthusiasts and/or involved in that industry; this, along with my personal experience has been the unanimous consensus.

If this was a collector, or a unique model in any way, I would hold a different opinion. But, it's not; it's a 3 series (I don't have any issues with the 3 series Zufimufi, so no offense intended, but it's not exactly a one off). Just obviously keep in mind the fact that in addition to the already considered costs and warranty issues, it will be difficult to re-sell here once you're done with it.

As for the economic situation hindering sale in California, I do understand and agree with that; it's the exact reason I brought my bike, which would have made no sense otherwise.

Either way, good luck with the inspectors, I hope they aren't as bad to you as there were to my bike, which as a global model shouldn't have even needed any inspection.
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Old 20.03.2010, 13:11
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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Yes, I'm aware of that subtle technical difference. But at the same time the vast quantity of low power local FM stations here means that you are constantly going in and out of broadcast ranges anyway while on the autobahn and any local station will "bleed" over the small difference.
Which is why the RDS AF function keeps you on the correct frequency for your area, and that only functions flawlessly when you can receive all frequencies without any restriction.

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I can tell you from empirical evidence that all of my U.S. digital receivers work fine here and that includes the one in my car.
Maybe your US digital receiver does, but the BMW car radio does not

I have worked on many many BMWs specifically converting them from one market to the other. I know the differences in the radios, the nav systems, and the TV systems.

I am familiar with the global specifications and the differences between the four key world market regions, being Japan, Oceania, Europe and USA. I am a qualified electronics engineer with 20 years experience, and I know the differences. I've even sat down and retuned radios by altering the PLL.

The BMW USA radios - and in all BMW cars for at least the last 15 years - are set for tuning in 200kHz steps, and that simply does not work in Europe.

Whilst older generation BMWs could be changed from region-USA to region-Europe at the touch of a button, the newer generation cars have the radio region linking to the vehicle region, and thus much harder to change

Maybe you have experience with non-BMW radios that tune in 100kHz steps, and in that case the issue does not arise (ignoring RDS differences and de-emphasis differences)
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Old 20.03.2010, 13:29
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Re: bringing my USA BMW to CH?

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stuff
You said the quality of a USA BMW would be different to a European one; I showed that was not even slightly the case.
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