My next car - international edition
May 25, 2023 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm very curious about how to go about finding a new car that is actually manufactured for the non-US market and bring it to the U.S.

Is there a way to find out what cars a particular brand (i.e. Honda, Toyota, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes) makes in all of the countries that it sells in and not just the US? I'm particularly curious about those made for the European market which tend to be more a) wagons and b) manual transmission but still feature the steering wheel on the left side for right side driving. The thinking being that I could finally get the European version of the car (my cake) and bring it to the US to drive (eat it too).
posted by tafetta, darling! to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Practically speaking, you need to wait until a car is 25 years old to do this.
posted by oceano at 3:13 PM on May 25 [8 favorites]

Many European automakers have something called “European delivery” (Wikipedia link) for this purpose.
posted by mdonley at 3:43 PM on May 25

New "European Delivery" cars will have to meet US spec (emissions and crash standards wise) so you're not going to get a stickshift wagon unless the vehicle is sold in that configuration in the US.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 3:52 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

The only way you'll get a manual when it's not offered in the US like that is to do a transmission swap. There are quite a few kits available for the older BMWs. But you're not going to find one with dealer warranty (i.e. anything younger than a few years old) due to the amount of computers inside.
posted by kschang at 4:08 PM on May 25

If you want a Euro rocket wagon with an MT maybe keep an eye on BMW, they passed on bringing the M3 Touring to the US but the M5 might have a chance.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:30 PM on May 25

To answer the first part of your question, to find out what cars are made by each brand in other regions, you just need to go the country specific website for that brand. For example - Honda UK. This might require a little digging to find out which brands are sold where though. I just googled for "Honda UK" but then I tried googling "Honda International" and found this. Honda's a bit more challenging however because they make many things, not just cars. Here's a similar starting point for Toyota.

Because I had it open anyway I also asked ChatGPT. It has an answer for Honda I wont post here (because I cant verify it's accuracy) but it also might be a good starting point.
posted by cgg at 6:24 PM on May 25

When you say “new”, do you mean brand new or just new-to-you?

As mentioned above, if it’s brand new this is a no-go. The EPA requires every powertrain combination to be certified for emissions requirements, so an engine/transmission combo not certified in the US will not be allowed in. DOT requires crash testing for each body style, too, so a wagon variant would have the same problem.

There is a list of foreign market vehicles on the DOT car import website that are easIER to import new, but those generally are cars already sold in the US but also sold in foreign markets, so a serviceman stationed in Germany who buys a new Corvette there can bring it home. And even then, it needs to be converted back to US standards (Lighting, MPH/English gauges, and so on).

Stick to the old cars, and they’ll breeze through customs. Illegally import a gray-market car, and you’ll risk it being crushed if the feds find you.
posted by hwyengr at 7:41 AM on May 26

Without waiting for the 25 year limit to pass, like hwyengr says you'd not only get it 100% up to US standards, you'd have to buy two so the DOT can crash test one of them. And even then, it might not pass. Many of the euro market hot hatch cars will not pass the US offset head-on collision test just by the nature of how they are designed.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 8:51 AM on May 26

One of the writers for Jalopnik imports cars from various places because he's into cars. He has a list of best cars to import in 2023 that may provide inspiration.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:07 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

It’s more than 1 for crashing. The story went that they asked Porsche for at least 7 959s for the tests. There’s no question that the cars would have passed, but they only built 300 of them in all, and were already losing the window sticker price on each one that was actually sold.

That’s also the car that got Bill Gates to lobby for the “Show and Display” exemption in the ‘90s. So let that also show, not even Bill Gates could get a fully federalized grey market car into the US without a fuckton of restrictions on its use.
posted by hwyengr at 4:09 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

You may have a better chance of getting a Canadian version of a car into the US. They do occasionally have some different options than ours and it's not unheard of to have dealers Stateside have them available. I had one offered to me that was just beautiful but they couldn't include the warranty specificially because it was Canadian.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:38 AM on May 28

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