Monday, September 22, 2008

Tour of the Volkswagen Phaeton Manufacturing Plant

Today was surreal. The RIAS fellows received a private tour of the Volkswagen Transparent Factory in Dresden; which houses the high end VW Phaeton. The most expensive of phaeton's can run you up to $157,000 Euros! Surprisingly though, when VW launched this car in America, it didn't sell so well, but Koreans seem to love this sedan.

The plant is called Glaserne Manufaktur or literally the transparent building. Between two floors we saw (almost) the completion of a VW Phaeton assembled by hand. The entire process takes about 36-hours and the people who create these "luxurious" cars wear pristine white cover-alls (and it's important to mention there wasn't a drop of dirt in sight.) These jobs are highly sought after and pay extremely well. The employees (also called "fitters" mostly worked in silence; gliding across beautiful wooden floors with robotic machines helping to transport the larger pieces of the cars to their proper places.

Every year, there are nearly 7,000 cars created here; but about 80 percent of them stay within Germany. Did you know Phaetons are also mostly made-to-order?

We also learned VW chose Dresden back in 2001 because the city is known for being inventive and innovative (first german locomotive, Europe's first white porcelain and the world's first small format single lens reflex camera). We had the opportunity to sit in a finished Phaeton and I admit it was pretty magnificent. The car (from the outside) seems like most others, but the inside had a refrigerator, climate control in each seat, televisions and more. The feel was extremely comfortable! A little out of my price range and taste though.

My favorite part of the entire operation was "the marriage." This is where the bodywork and chassis of the car are united. Also, when the car leaves the sectioned conveyor; it's carried by an electrical suspension rail through the rest of production. The plant also has a high-end restaurant and lots of open space and meeting rooms to "get to know" the future owners. All are invited to come to Dresden to pick up their cars, although I don't think that happens all that often.

Our tour Guide Thomas was terrific. He has been working at the plant since it opened up. There are public tours; that are free for everyone. Thomas also took us to an area where we got to drive a phaeton through a virtual "country road." What a trip that was! I went with my new fellow friend Gerri Shaftel from Fox Los Angeles. The roads were twisty-curvy to say the least, but she sure handled her self well.

We also got to snap a photo of ourselves standing next to a phaeton we designed on our own and we got to pick our favorite tourist attraction in the city to stand by (over the car). We all had a blast making faces and posing. Host Rainer Hasters stuck a stamp on his, wrote a quick note to his wife and sent it home to Berlin. I loved it!

After our amazing tour at VW, we had an appointment with officials from the Saxony Economic and Labour Department. The people there talked about the city and it's low homeless/unemployment rate. They also distributed this awesome publication (the first of its kind) created by Dresden officials and it was a wonderful read. Great articles, lively pictures to show tourists like me all the city has to offer. Dresden we learned is considered the "Florence" on the Elbe River.

Tonight, fellows Blake Warenik, Mark Garrison, Dan Tritle, Sarah Herndon, Allison Bryce and myself had dinner at this wonderful little Turkish restaurant in the New Town section of the city. I had my very first Doner Kebab for dinner and I absolutely loved it. Tasted very much like a Gyro. Slices of lamb on a pita with veggies and this yummy cream sauce. It certainly tickled my tastebuds!

Dresden does it for me! Sleep tight.

We walked back to the Radisson before it was off to Prague, Czech Republic in the morning!

1 comment:

Tyra Shortino said...

Being able to watch how a VW Phaeton is assembled is a great learning experience! You've not only learned the history of the car; you've also taken time to know the city. It's like you're watching Discovery and History Channel at the same time, except it's better because you've seen the real thing.

Tyra Shortino