Wendy and I have been out of town on vacation for the last week. Yep, that’s right, we’ve been posting our daily entries from various locations in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Why were we in Sweden? Well, we bought a new car. Yep, I’m serious.
Wendy and I just spent the last eight days tooling around Scandinavia and during that time we saw some pretty amazing stuff. But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back and get you all up to speed on exactly what we were doing well across the pond.
A little while back we posted about conducting our entire renovation using a now 12 year old Ford Mustang. As the only car between the two of us, our Mustang has served us quite well. We’ve been driving our car since the week after we graduated from college in 2000. During our various renovation projects, our car has been a true workhorse. (No pun intended.) On any given weekend you can find us folding down the back seat and packing the usable space full of anything and everything we’ve needed along the way.
Though we have grown quite attached to our car, it is getting up there in years. Over the past few years, and especially whenever the weather threatens snow, we’ve toyed with the idea of replacing our impractical but fun car with something that might suit our needs a little better. However, every year until now we’ve had the “well…maybe next year” decision.
I know you may be thinking “what does buying a new car have to do with a trip to Scandinavia?” Trust me, it all makes perfect sense.
Earlier this year I was talking to a coworker about our on-again-off-again car search. We had recently borrowed a neighbor’s Volvo SUV to run an errand, and Wendy and I really liked the car. I mentioned to my coworker that we were seriously considering a Volvo as our new car purchase. As soon as I said something his eyes lit up and he said “Have you looked into their Overseas Delivery Program?” He briefly described the benefits of a new car purchase combined with a European vacation, and suggested we look into it as an option.
Being the web junkie that I am, I jumped onto the Internet and began researching the program. I was stunned, to say the least, by what a good deal Volvo seemed to be offering. The primary benefits are:
- A significant discount on a fully customized new car (about 5% in our case)
- Two free round-trip airline tickets to Gothenburg, Sweden on SAS
- Transportation to and from the airport and Volvo delivery center
- Two tickets to the SAS business lounge on your departing flight
- One night free hotel stay in Gothenburg
- Complimentary breakfast and lunch on the day of pickup
- A Volvo factory tour
- The ability to drive your own car around Europe rather than renting a car
- And a pretty cool souvenir (your car) from a rather unique vacation
If you're a reader of our blog, you are well aware that Wendy is a sucker for a good deal. I excitedly called her to inform her of the program and almost as soon as I said “two free round trip plane tickets to Sweden,” she was sold. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that easy, but she was interested in learning more.
With thoughts of a new car dancing in our head we headed down to the local Volvo dealer to test-drive the car we were interested in. We decided to test-drive a 2011 XC60, their smaller crossover SUV. We’ve long wanted a bit more cargo space, but didn’t want and don’t have room to park a large SUV. We had been looking at various small size SUVs for a while, so this fit right in with our preferences. After a short test drive, we determined the XC60 was the car for us.
Once we had settled on the car as a viable candidate,, I continued my Internet research on the model, options, reviews, opinions, and anything else I could find. During my research, I stumbled on a Volvo website and forum called Swede Speed, a Volvo enthusiasts website, that has a whole section of their forum dedicated to the Overseas Delivery Program or OSD.
Through the Swede Speed forum I found the name of Bob Kennedy, OSD specialist for University Volvo of Charlotte, NC. While purusing this website and others, Bob’s name kept coming up, and I kept reading nothing but great things about Bob’s work with his customers, so I reached out to him and we got the ball rolling on our new vehicle purchase.
We signed the paperwork on July 1 and sent in our deposit. Our new car that we had long talked about was becoming a reality.
Several weeks later we received the paperwork from Volvo with the official pickup date for our car. We ordered a 2012 model year XC60, which were just coming out, so I knew the wait for delivery might be a little while off. Though we had hoped for a September date, our pickup date was set for October 18. With the date in hand, Wendy and I moved into vacation planning mode.
Since neither of us had ever visited this part of the world, we decided we would take advantage of our new car and drive from major city to major city in Scandinavia, making stops at smaller towns along the way. We typically like to go to a single area on vacation and exhaust what we can do in that location, so this driving around thing was a little bit outside of our comfort zone. In a hope not to feel rushed out of any one location, we decided on an eight night stay with stops in: Gothenburg, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; and, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Our trip started at Dulles International airport on October 16. After a very long wait in the rather annoying security line (I thought all of the Dulles construction was supposed to make the lines better, not worse), we headed over to the Lufthansa business lounge in the international terminal. Let me tell you, if you need to start a long trip, doing it in the business lounge with free food, wine, and comfortable seats is the way to go. We didn’t have long before our flight, so after a quick bite to eat, we were boarding our SAS operated flight to Copenhagen.
The plane was an Airbus 340-300, which seats almost 250. Lucky for us, the booking agent for Volvo was wonderful and put Wendy and me in a window and aisle seat on our own. There’s nothing worse than being stuck next to someone you don’t know on an eight hour flight, and this is something we didn't have to endure.
The flight itself was rather uneventful, which is always good. We got into Copenhagen about 40 minutes early. This allowed us to make our connecting flight in spite of a rather long security line at customs. If you’re making this trip, remember that the connection can be tight, so don’t dilly dally.
When arrived in Gothenburg right on time, grabbed our luggage from the carousel, and headed to the exit where we met a driver from Volvo holding a sign with our name on it. We had boarded the plane at about 5:00pm on a Sunday, and with the six hour time change it was about 8:00am on Monday, so we were a bit bleary eyed and ready for some rest. After a short but scenic trip from the airport, the driver took us to our complimentary hotel in Gothenburg -- the Radisson Blu.
Exhausted from the trip and very little sleep on the plan, Wendy and I did what we usually do international flights, we crawled into bed for a three hour nap. For us, the three hour nap is key. We’re not people who can just stay up the rest of the day, we crash about noon, and we’re also ruined for sleeping that night if we sleep more than three hours. Three is our magic number to give us enough rest to recharge our batteries for the rest of the day, but not too much to ruin our sleep that night.
Recharged from our nap, we headed out for some sight seeing around Gothenburg, but we’ll cover that in another post. Today’s post will be more about the whole OSD program and our very fun experience.
As I mentioned, we arrived on Monday, but our real Volvo adventure didn’t begin until Tuesday morning, the day we were going to pickup our car. We kicked the day off with a full complimentary European breakfast at the Radisson. Though there were pastries, meat trays, sausage, eggs, fruit, cereals, coffee, and more, we stuck with a simpler meal of some toast and yogurt. We’re not often into the big breakfasts.
Shortly after breakfast, we met another Volvo driver in the lobby of the hotel to take us and another couple to the Volvo Factory Delivery Center to receive our new car.
The ride over to the Volvo plant was only about 15-20 minutes, but gave us a small glimpse of the Gothenburg industrial area. It was interesting to see, as it seems to be an area that is thriving as a robust port town that is also appreciative of the art and culture as a modern Swedish city. It was also fun to talk to the other couple headed to get their car. They happened to be from Ashburn, Virginia, only about 30-40 minutes form where Wendy and I live. Small world, right?
Walking into the Factory Delivery Center, we were greeted by a clean and modern facility and show room, far nicer than most car dealerships you see in the states.
The centerpiece was a 1961 Volvo P1800, which has obviously been painstakingly restored to a like-new state.
Beyond this, a display area with two new cars, an XC70 and S60, and wall board with examples of all of the various options, color choices, and materials that buyers can choose for their cars.
You could also see to the upper floors of the workspace, where Volvo employees worked in a clean and modern open office setting of mostly glass. As much as I love historic architecture with character, I can really appreciate contemporary and clean when it is done so well.
We began the various paperwork with Hans from Volvo and we were well on our way to receiving our car. We just needed to establish/confirm a few items like delivery location and when we would be dropping the car back a the center after we were done driving around Sweden.
With the paperwork all settled, Hans disappeared into their holding area to bring our car out. A few minutes later, our brand new 2012 XC60 T6 R-Design small SUV appeared in the pickup/show area.
Hans took us out to see it and go over the various features of the car, like how to turn it on, operate the stereo, set seat position, etc. You have to realize, I’m a tech nerd, and I tend to have an aptitude for this sort of thing, but we’ve been driving a 12 year old car that has little more than a CD player and a headlight knob that sometimes comes off in your hand when you pull it out, so it was nice to have someone familiar give us the grand tour. I mean, this car doesn’t even have a normal key, so I’m sure I would have screwed something up.
After our car tour, we took a few photos of the car while it was still in pristine shape. It was raining outside, so we knew that as soon as we drove it out of that garage door, that was it, it wasn’t really brand spanking new anymore.
It was approaching 11:30 so we opted to let the car stay new for a few minutes longer and have lunch in the OSD cafeteria before we would go for a drive.
I must say, lunch was excellent. They served a traditional meal of Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, and lingonberries. Wendy has the traditional meal, but I opted to substitute an egg and spinach quiche for the meatballs. Wendy did report that the meatballs were quite good.
After lunch we looked around the gift shop for a few minutes, then we headed out on the factory tour at 1:00. The tour departed at 1:00 sharp. Everything about the whole process was absolutely on time and as expected.
The tour was conducted from a small tram with individual cars that would seat about 12 people. Each car had a specific target language for the tour so no one was left out. And since we would be heading through several areas of an operational factory, we had to wear protective eyewear. (We're no strangers to safety glasses).
The tour lasted for about an hour but, unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photos. The tram drove us around several small portion of the more than one mile long plant that receives sheet metal on one end, and delivers completed cars from the other end. In all, the plant was a clean, ergonomic, organized, safe, and largely robotic collection of assembly lines and buildings that seemed to be running quite amazingly.
During the tour, we were able to see a stamping area where dies weighing several tons were creating panels and parts from rolls of sheet metal, drive train assembly sections where various models of cars were all being assembled in one line, a section where the car’s frame is married to the drive train and body (where a car actually becomes a car), and the final assembly area where cars are first started and driven across the line.
Really, we saw so much that it would be nearly impossible to summarize it all in a post. If you’re interested in the tour, it is well worth stopping by and you can do it without buying a Volvo (but you'll have to pay a small admission fee for the tour).
One of the coolest things about the factory tour was the fact that many of the workers actually ride bikes from position to position on the production floor. It’s an easy and fast way to get around an extremely large plant.
After the conclusion of our tour, we spent a little more time at the factory delivery center before heading out and took a few more photos of interesting things, like this Volvo S80 limousine.
With that, we hopped into our new car with just 7.7 miles on the odometer, and headed out on the rest of our Scandinavian adventure. What’s not to love about driving around Europe with “new car” smell?
Volvo has been doing the OSD program since 1963, but several other manufacturers are now offering various similar packages and deals. I know BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Saab have some level of benefits. Even Porsche is doing it (but I understand the car costs more and no free air travel through them, not sure of the advantage there).
What do you think, is the Overseas Delivery program a perk that sounds interesting to you? Interesting enough to buy a Volvo? If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments and we'll do out best to answer them.
Stay tuned as we’ll be posting about some of the really cool things we got to do and see along the way in our adventure. We really didn’t know what to expect going into the trip, but we had a really good time. We’re back to the real world now, sad to see vacation end, but we’re excited to share some cool stuff and get ramped back up on house projects.
Now that we're home, we are just waiting for the free shipping of our car from Europe. Anticipated delivery date is sometime in late November.
Oh, one other thing about the OSD program, you get temporary European plates while you are driving your car around. When the car comes to the states, they are yours to keep. Kind of cool and something Wendy has been thinking about using as decoration in our house.