Import Canadian Fiat into France?

There are bound to be some minor differences in the programming of the ECM as a result of differing emissions regulations, but that is likely not something that I would foresee as being problematic. Or, it might require reprogramming of the ECM.

What would likely be problematic is the difference in European safety regulations. That could mean installing different headlights–and possibly other parts of the car, as well. It could even require the installation of a different light switch. And, these potential expense issues lead me to ask two questions:

Why would somebody go to the expense of shipping–and partially refitting–a car as inexpensive as a Fiat 500, which can be readily found in France?

Why would somebody seek the responses from anonymous strangers in (mostly) The USA, when the only response that really matters is one from the government of France?


The question of why asking questions on a forum that has a 99.99 possibility of not being the place for the answer is really puzzling.
The OP said they did a 5 minute web search. In less time than that I found out France has an Embassy in Vancouver . I also found a site that showed that there could be a 10 % customs fee plus a 20 % VAT . If the OP had found that then a reasonable person would decide that this is not worth the cost.

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Thanks Random Troll. That is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for, and seems pretty much on the money.

Why ask here? Despite the repeated links to various French embassy Web pages, I’m 99% sure that none of them will say “… and if you’re importing a Fiat you need to change the headlights and the ECM.”

The closest I got on line was “contact the manufacturer.” Given that it took three days and multiple visits for the local dealer to even SELL us the car, I expect that trying to get that kind of information out of Chrysler would be a long and painful process. And they would likely get it wrong.

All that I really needed was one person who had already imported a car into France who could say “this is what you’ll likely run into.” Especially someone who’s an actual car enthusiast, so likely actually know what they’re talking about

As far as the Car Talk forums being only Americans, I’ll wager the Car Talk podcast has a big international listenership. Regardless, I’m sure there are people here who have imported or exported cars.

At this point I’m expecting that we’ll wind up selling the car. Driving it cross country, onto the boat, then off on the other side has a lot of romance, but may not be worth the hassle

In any event, even though it’s France, we have NO intention of buying a diesel car!

In the '50s I read a story of a guy who spent a year in London. He bought a used Volkswagen for £50, drove it for a year, abandoned it at the pier when he shipped back to the US. Months later he got a letter from the police. They had impounded his car, sold it at auction, collected the cost of impoundment and auction from the sales price, sent him a check for £50.

Good decision; You could actually have made that without even talking to us.

By now you also know that Normandy is a rather conservative part of France, and your red hot Fiat might even rub the locals the wrong way!

My brother lives in England and he has an English friend in Normandy. Even this guy drives a local car that the local mechanics know how to maintain.

Back in 1960 I had a Chevrolet which I wanted to take to Europe after graduation, and after the 5 months there, just leave it there. Although theoretically this made sense and there were no safety and emissions to worry about, I could not vision a mechanic in an Austrian village doing a repair, let alone finding parts.

Instead, I rented a 4 year old Volkswagen beetle form a local garage in Holland at a very attractive rate and happily put on 10,000 km in 14 countries. Only repair was a broken speedometer cable, fixed in Germany for $7US while we had lunch.

In summary, common sense goes a long way in deciding what to do.

The reaction you got from the French government is typical of what to expect when solving any problem of a similar nature in France.

P.S. Being able to speak French is worth a fortune in goodwill and getting help from the locals.

Bon Voyage!!

Trying to speak the local language anywhere buys good will. I went to Western Quebec for a fishing trip a number of years ago. We went to a local bar on the lake. When I ordered beer at the bar, I did so in French. The locals loved it. It was clear I was not a local or from Quebec, but showing deference to their language made friends fast.

A few years ago I was on a sales promotion trip to sell the Albertville, France 1992 Olympics on our design structures based on the 1988 Calgary Olympics…

The local chamber recommended a cozy restaurant just outside of the city in a converted gristmill.

It was a Wednesday night in the off-season and there were few clients. My boss spoke only English and told me to do all the ordering.

The owner did the serving and she recommended her special dishes. When we told her we were from Canada, her face lit up and she told us many of her ancestors went there from St. Malo, France on the English Channel, where she was from.

She plied us with all her best wines and liqueurs and charged us only a minimal for the sumptuous meal.

Her final greeting was: “J’adore les Canadiens!”

By way of followup, via the Complete France forums:

FAQ - Importing and registering your UK car to France

Originally posted by ‘Sunday Driver’ :

If you are resident in France, you have one month in which to import your UK car and register it with your prefecture.

If you car is of “standard” EU manufacture (ie, not a Japanese/US grey import) then you’ll need to sort out the following in order to register your car in France

Export Declaration:

Fill in the tear-off export declaration slip from your V5C registration document and send it to the DVLA at Swansea. Retain the V5C as you’ll need it to register here. If you’ve any time left on your tax disc, you can send it back as well and request a refund of any expired excise duty.

VAT Paid certificate (quittus fiscal):

Visit your local Hotel des Impots and ask them for a quittus fiscal certificate. You’ll need to take along your V5C, original invoice/receipt (though for older cars, they don’t usually ask for it) and a utility bill. The certificate is free and incorporates your authority to drive your UK car on its foreign plates for a month whilst you arrange registration.

Type approval (certificat de conformite):

If its a recent car, then it’s normal to find a copy of the manufacturer’s certificate of conformity inside the owners manual/service book. If its an older car, then you’ll need to write to the manufacturer and ask them for one. There’s normally a 100-130 euro fee for this although some will issue them for free. Alternatively, you can apply to the DRIRE (Dept of Industry) for an attestation d’identite. Download an application form (with english instructions) from HERE and post it off with a copy of your V5C to your local DRIRE office. They’ll check their database of type approved vehicles and post you an attestation certificate. Cost is 67,38 euros.

Controle Technique:

If your car is 4 years old or more, take it for a CT test. You’ll need to change the headlamps for right hand dipping ones (cost up to 200 euros - try a scrapyard). You’ll also need to produce your V5C. The CT lasts for 2 years and costs 56,00 euros. Retests on failed items are usually free. The certificate is called a proces-verbal.

Visit your local prefecture and fill in a demande de certificate d’immatriculation. Take it to the counter and hand it over together with your certificat de conformite/attestation d’identite, quittus fiscal, proces-verbal de controle technique, V5C registration document, invoice/receipt, passport and a utility bill. After they’ve checked everything, you’ll be given a slip of paper which you hand in at the caisse together with the fee (credit cards accepted). Fees are based on a sliding scale depending on age of vehicle and its fiscal power rating. You can find a fee chart HERE . Once you’ve paid, they’ll issue you with a new registration document (carte grise).

Now take the carte grise to a cordonniere (key cutting/handbag shop usually situated inside the foyer of a hypermarket) and he’ll make you up a set of plaques for about 20 euros. Don’t forget to ask him for some rivets - screws are illegal here.

Finally, organise yourself some french insurance cover, stick their green insurance vignette on the inside of your windscreen.

If your car is a “grey” Japanese import, then the process is more complex and costly and outside the scope of this response.

High visibility vest and triangle mandatory from 1 October 2008

Motorists: vest and triangle mandatory from 1 October 2008
Sanctions will be applied from 1 October 2008 against motorists whose vehicle is not equipped with a high visibility safety vest and warning triangle.

From that date, motorists who do not comply with these new obligations will be liable to a class-4 fine (€135 fixed penalty, reduced to €90 if paid within 15 days of issue).

The high visibility safety vest must be worn by a driver before he exits a vehicle immobilised on or by the roadside in response to an emergency.
It must include the “CE” mark and a reference to one of two standards: “EN 471” or “EN 1150”.

Upon leaving the vehicle, the driver must place a warning triangle on the roadside at a distance of at least 30 meters from his vehicle or from the obstacle.
The marking “E 27 R” certifies the conformity of the triangle with existing standards.

Finally, it appears that the French REALLY prefer to buy French cars, most of the top twenty models, year after year, are Renault, Citroën, and Peugeot, with a handful of Dacia models - a cheap Romanian brand imported by Renault.

Not only are they cheap, but Dacias are actually old Renault designs, so mechanically-inclined buyers in France would have a good amount of familiarity with these designs that were discontinued by Renault many years ago.

Does your Canadian Fiat meet U.K. Requirements? I doubt it. UK cars meet EU requirements, while Canadian cars are similar to US cars.


That was true many years ago and they was not worth a dime, but nowadays, everything has changed. They are VERY competitive on price and they even has a warranty that exceeds many other manufactures here. I’m not saying that, they make the best car, but I’ll consider them on par with a Ford, Fiat, Opel, Nissan and what have you. Yesteryears Dacia’s was built on a license, now Renault owns the factory. That’s made a big difference in quality.

I always kind of laugh when I see one. Back in 1965 I used to deliver chicken in one just like that, or very similar, except it was purple to match the restaurant. It wasn’t new so maybe it was a 1960 model or so but looked very much the same. I can’t remember if it had a radio or not.

Yes, we are completely off the track here. The lengthy dissertation about importing a car from the UK into France has NOTHING to do with importing one from CANADA, which OP was planning to do.

The paperwork will be even more elaborate since Canadian standards are very close to US standards, except for daytime running lights and better bumpers. Speedometers are usually already marked in miles as well as KMs.

The post does indicate that importing a car from outside the EU will be a very frustrating experience, especially after driving the car from Vancouver to Toronto or Montreal to put it on the boat.

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I still think buying a Hyundai I30 upon arrival is the thing to do.

Well, at this point I guess I’ll bite the bullet and try to get Fiat Canada to tell me if the thing is importable, or how big the modifications might be. I suspect that getting information out of them will be a journey in itself, but I really want to know! Even though it seems increasingly unlikely that we’ll bother.

Incidentally, we’re blogging this whole project at

True! I drive my Canadian built Toyota Corolla all over the U.S and was never pulled over because the car didn’t meet U.S standard.

Americans do not get “pulled over” in Canada unless there is something wrong with their lights or turn signals. Tourists do not get penalized for having different cars. Last year I met a Belgian in Canada who was touring the continent in his Italian-built motorhome. He even had Belgian plates on it. The Department of Tourism was proud that anyone would travel that far to see the Canadian Rockies!

If you have an American car and move to Canada, there are some minor items to consider such as installing daytime running lights. Nearly all other items are virtually the same. Many executives and engineers get multi-year assignments in Canada and bring their cars up from Texas or Oklahoma. No problem there, as long as they keep US plates on them.

with all due respect, I feel you’re confusing where a car was built, versus where it was designed to be sold and operated

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It may be impossible to find a Fiat employee that has any training or experience with importing vehicles to France.

You should be able to research the import requirements, the French government will have this in writing somewhere. Understanding the requirements will be challenging for someone outside the auto industry.

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Worth noting that you can drive your foreign car all over the US, but if you want to register it you need to import it, and there are specific conditions your vehicle has to meet. It may not be a big deal, but the customs people still need to stamp a piece of paper before you can get plates and insurance.

(Assuming things haven’t changed from 15 years ago when I moved my trusty Dodge Shadow from Ontario to Virginia.) (Where the Virginia DMV managed to issue me a pair of licence plates with two different numbers. I think I drove around with them for six months before I noticed, called them, and they asked me would I please return them.)