When we decided to import Graham’s much-beloved Jag to France we encountered all sorts of well-meaning friends and acquaintances who told us that it wasn’t worth the hassle and that we’d be better off buying a car here. Only one friend, Sara, had anything positive to say, and her words were “If anyone’s going to do it, it will be Alex” (I paraphrase here!). I have to wonder whether this was a comment about my determination, or something less flattering. It could be both, of course.
Anyhow, Graham wanted to have the Jag here, so we went for it. Sara was a star for agreeing to assist us in our absence as, naturally, we hoped that we could wave a magic wand over the entire performance and “voila!” it would all happen – painlessly and without hiccup. Sara speaks French as I aspire to – swiftly and without any noticeable effort – and I hoped that she was our ace-up-the sleeve, if you know what I mean.
Our initial problems were those of mailing issues, as Graham’s nephew tried to get the vehicle registration documents, bill of sale and certificate of conformity to us, but there was a transposition of numbers in the postal code, which meant that the first set went AWOL.
Astonishingly, Sara wasn’t our ace in hand, and that is through no lack of effort on her part. Mme L- didn’t tell her that she couldn’t have the Controlle Technique done without the (UK) registration document, which Sara had. So everything sat waiting – for what no-one seemed to know.
When we arrived I took the reins in hand. Actually, that’s not a fair statement. In true “Alex dealing with bureaucracy style” I took the bit between my teeth. I went to see Mme L- and established what was required to move forward, collected the papers from Sara and returned to the garage with registration documents and certificate of conformity in hand. First stumbling block: the EU certificate of conformity, while comprehensive, was not in French. Stupid girl! Go and get one in French. So we did – a call to Jaguar’s HQ in Paris, an email and €200 later we had our French certificate of conformity (give-or-take a week)
Then we discovered that we needed to deal with the Centre des Impôts to import the car before the Controlle Technique could be done ………… off to the jolly old sous Prefecture in Libourne (NB: if you can,go to the sous Prefecture,it’s quicker than the Prefecture). Fortunately, they listened with sympathy to my tale of woe, and charged us nothing!
Back to the Controlle Technique, armed with a fresh sheaf of papers in the correct language and the certain knowledge (courtesy of the P- Jag Centre down the road from Graham’s sister) that there were no European headlights for the Jag – they only adjust up or down. Wrong. We failed on our headlights. Here’s the crunch: €1,600 for 2 new LHD headlights. We reeled in astonishment and Graham spent a gloomy and defeated couple of days as we tried to hunt down a pair that cost less to no avail.
We ordered the headlights – express delivery, please. They arrived, and were fitted by a mechanic at M. L-‘s garage before anyone realised that Jaguar had shipped the wrong lights! They had shipped a replacement set of UK lights, instead of French ones. Could this possibly get any more farcical?
I leaned on M. L- and explained that we were fast running out of time and that Graham’s research had led us to understand that the DRER could take 2-3 weeks to process our application, and there was no guarantee that we’d get through. He took pity on me and went round to his buddy at the Controlle Technique depot, showed his contact there what had happened with the lights and swore that we’d have them in good time. The man at the CT depot took pity too and, on trust, passed the car.
We were on the home run. Potentially the trickiest aspect of the whole endeavour was getting the final batch of papers accepted and approved. We rolled up at the sous Prefecture in Bergerac (a change in rules means that one no longer has to deal within one’s Department for some aspects of French government) at 11AM on Friday morning. Within minutes my number was called and I handed over all that we had with a goodly degree of trepidation. I was given a hand-written receipt and told to wait until my name was called, which it was shortly thereafter. I parted with a jaw-dropping €820 (thanks to the very high emissions rating for the car) and given a provisional Certificate d’Immatriculation and the very nice lady who had just separated me from large amounts of money advised that we’d hear from the DRER by mail. We left, stunned at the apparent ease with which all had been accomplished and waited for bad news from the DRER.
At 10 the following morning I had a notification in the post box that a registered letter would be awaiting my collection at the post office in Sainte-Foy-La-Grande after 10:15AM on the following Monday morning. We had no clue as to what it could be, but wasted no time in picking it up at the appointed hour. You can only imagine our utter surprise when I opened the envelope and discovered that the Jag was now fully registered as a French car – it was the Carte Grise! Who says that French bureaucracy is slow? They had turned everything around in less than 1 working day. Beers all round!