Volvo purchase included free trip to Sweden

By Karen Stensgaard
This item appears on page 30 of the April 2018 issue.
Karen Stensgaard dropping the SUV off at the Volvo factory in Göteborg. Photo by Michael Stensgaard.

My husband, Michael, wanted a sport utility vehicle (SUV). I’d managed to postpone it for years, but when our faithful, 15-year-old Volvo convertible that we’d picked up at the Volvo factory in Göteborg, Sweden, had repair costs (to pass inspection) higher than she was worth, we knew it was time. And luck was with us. Volvo still had the Overseas Delivery program.

We met with the sales consultant Sandy Mason-Bealer at a local Volvo dealership, Wynn Volvo Cars Norristown (Norristown, PA; 888/480-4217 or  610/ 539-1100). She knew all about the program.

The rules may change, but the program included two round-trip coach tickets to Göteborg from an airport near your home; one night at a hotel in the city; transfers to and from the Göteborg airport and the Volvo factory; 15 days of European auto insurance and Swedish license plates, and vehicle shipment from Göteborg to your local dealership. Vehicles may be financed but not leased.

(An additional six months of insurance is available at an extra charge, as is shipment from a different European port.)

Sandy explained, “Volvo doesn’t have a minimum-mileage or minimum-days-driven requirement. Some customers arrive at the factory, sign for the car and have it shipped home without driving at all.” 

The canal Stora Hamnkanalen in Göteborg, Sweden. Photo by Karen Stensgaard

Sandy helped us select the right vehicle customized to our needs (the price of a Volvo starts at $40,000), coordinated with Volvo’s head office and put us in touch with their travel agency.

The night of June 16, 2016, we flew American Airlines from Philadelphia to London. On June 20, we continued to Göteborg aboard SAS.

Positioned on the southwest coast, Göteborg is a beautiful city well worth visiting. The second-largest city in Sweden, it is a perfect size for tourists — small enough to not get lost in or for it to become overwhelming, while significant and unique enough to stay exciting. Having escaped damage from recent wars and natural disasters, many older parts of town still exist. 

Many Swedes speak English, as well, making independent sightseeing easier.

Since Scandinavia is so far north, the winter is dark and can be quite cold. Summer is the best time of year to visit; the days are longer, with average high temperatures in the low 60s, superb for a road trip.

Karen Stensgaard's grandfather's childhood home in Arvika, Värmland County. Photo by Karen Stensgaard

After our complimentary one-night stay at the highly rated Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel (Södra Hamngatan 59, Göteborg;, we headed to Volvo’s factory to pick up our new SUV. Many Volvo customers from around the world also arrived that day to pick up their vehicles.

We took a test drive, then joined the complimentary mini-tram tour through the factory. Aboard a miniature train reminiscent of a Disneyland ride, we were escorted onto the busy automobile assembly line floor. A tour guide explained the steps in building a Volvo. Sparks flew while robot arms swung massive car doors around like lightweight toys.

Following a good-bye lunch at the factory, Michael and I drove our SUV a few hours north to Arvika, in Värmland County, to meet cousins and see my grandfather’s home. We stayed at an Airbnb property.

Nearby Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden, has blue-green tributaries slithering throughout the area. Red wooden farmhouses stud the landscape.

Painted ceiling in the 18th-century Glava Church in the village of Glava, south of Arvika, Sweden. Photo by Karen Stensgaard

Many of my ancestors lived in this region as far back as the 1600s. I found this a magical storybook place with a fairy-tale nature. The view from the road was so unspoiled, I kept expecting to see a Swedish knight on horseback along the many wooded trails.

Along Arvika’s country roads and lakes, many historical, white-walled churches were open daily to allow travelers to view the impressive interiors. Remnants of Stone Age and Bronze settlements were also in the area, which wasn’t overly crowded with tourists.

Part of our plan was to do genealogy research. Cemeteries in Sweden recycle the land and often do not contain grave sites much older than a hundred years, to the dismay of genealogists. A few weeks before my arrival, my great-grandparents’ tombstone had been removed.

We had timed our trip to the Arvika region to coincide with Midsommardagen, the annual midsummer festival that takes place once a year all over Sweden. The Mariebergsskogen (Marie’s Mountain Forest State Park) in nearby Karlstad had a busy day of celebrations planned.

The festival ( is uniquely Swedish and includes raising a flower-trimmed wooden maypole, with people dancing around it and folk music playing. We spent the day there. (The midsummer celebration will take place on Saturday, June 23, in 2018 and on June 22, 2019.)

After several days in Arvika, we headed southeast across Sweden to the island of Öland, where we stayed with some second cousins for a few days. This 500-square-mile island, occupied since 8000 BC, is located in the Baltic Sea and can be reached by bridge or ferry. It includes many old windmills and the ruins of Borgholm Castle, dating from the 13th century. 

On June 28 we continued to Malmö, Sweden, and across the Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen, Denmark, where we spent a few days with my Danish mother-in-law. We then made a leisurely trip back through Helsingør, the site of Kronborg, “Hamlet’s castle.” We drove on board the car ferry for the short crossing to Hälsingborg, Sweden, then made the 2-hour drive back to Göteborg.

People danced around the maypole, in Karlstad’s Mariebergsskogen, during Midsummer festival. Photo by Karen Stensgaard

We spent one last day sightseeing in Göteborg before dropping our vehicle off at the Volvo factory on July 5 for shipment, and the next day we flew home to Philadelphia via London. 

A few months later, our model XC60 SUV arrived in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. After it cleared Customs and the US registration and licensing were obtained, we picked up our SUV from our Volvo dealership.

(As for our old car, we worked out a temporary renewal for registration, made temporary repairs and finally donated it to the SPCA.)

A brochure on Volvo’s Overseas Delivery program is available to download at

Philadelphia, PA

Karen Stensgaard (center) with her Swedish cousins at a windmill in Öland, Sweden. Photo by Michael Stensgaard.