I was wondering if it is possible to import an M5 directly from a German dealer to avoid MSRP markup and long waiting lists. I've heard that there are a few stats that need to be met that fit the US laws (emissions etc.).
I asked the question when I bought my car here, in the Czech Republic (someday I expect to move back the US, and I wanted to know I could bring the car with me if I bought it here). I was told the US and Euro-spec cars are essentially identical. The major diff. is floating roaters in Europe vs. fixed in the US. I am not sure that you will have to change them and, if so, what this would cost (since the brakes get mixed reviews, it might be a reason to upgrade if you had to make a change). The dealer also thought the blinkers might be different. Again, I don't know if they would need to be changed. But, all major components are the same, and the Euro car should be 50 state legal. I was told it is a lot of paperwork, and you need the cooperation of the dealer in Europe from which you buy the car (my dealer promised they would help if and when the time comes). You would likely want a good customs broker on the US end to assist. I doubt you could buy direct from BMW in Germany. They probably would not want to do it if they knew you were going to do an end run around BMW NA's dealer network. And, I was told the selling dealer needs to assist to get the car into the US (I don't know why you can't just take delivery and drive it to a shipping company, but that's what I've been told).
FYI, I ordered my car in late Nov. and took delivery Feb. 1. My dealer could have had it in 8 weeks, but I wanted to be sure I got an '00 final build date. I got every option available, and paid around $95K. With the strength of the US$, it would probably be $88K now. That includes a 25% VAT, which you get back if you export the car out of the country within 60 days of delivery. So, when you do the math, it is a good price (after return of the VAT). I, of course, do not get VAT back, but them's the breaks.
It's not a bad plan, but you will have to do a lot of leg work.
Emission controls certified to US 50-state spec by BMW including OBD-II electronics and sensors?
DOT-spec lighting (US lighting laws used to be 50 years behind the state of the art, now they're only 20)
MPH speedometer, other controls labeled per US law?
Unless you can get a statement from BMW that the vehicle conforms to all US DOT and EPA requirements as it sits, you will probably have to get a Registered Importer into the act to certify the conversion, even if it only means changing out some lights and the speedometer.
The trunklids on US E39s are different from Euro E39s (license-plate relief size) and I'm sure this affects M5s too.
One more thing. I doubt any dealer in the US (unless you are a VERY good customer) will want to help you or encourage you to do this. So, I would not trust their answers regarding what changes you need to make to the car, etc. Nor would I turst the local Euro dealer, since they want to make the sale. I called BMW AG in Munich and told them (the truth in my case) that I am living in Europe, will likely be here for 2 years, and asked if it could be imported to the US when I moved back. I asked what would be involved, and if the M5 would be more of a headache then, say, a 540i 6. Interestingly, the M5 seems to be as easy if not easier.
I also wanted to buy the car from a European dealer (in my case French) and export it to the US. I got a very clear answer from BMW France: buy your car in the US, we won't help you. Doing it without any help from BMW seems to be quite complicated. I'm not sure whether it's worth the pain. It may affect the resale value of the car. And it is getting easier and easier to get the car in the US with reasonable waiting and pricing.