Our itinerary said a visit to the Volkswagen Transparent factory on the last day. And on the first day, we did see a glass and steel structure from the car. In my mind, it was just another visit to a manufacturing facility and it would be sophisticated was a set expectation. I did no reading on this one, so when I actually stood inside that glass shell, whatever I saw was a sheer delight.
It was not just another manufacturing facility, this was a studio format designer facility where custom made Phaetons are manufactured. You may get an idea from the fact that they produce only about 28 cars a day vis-à-vis a typical unit that would produce about 4000 cars.
My visit to the Volkswagen Transparent Factory, Dresden
We were first taken to the customers’ lounge. It had hundreds of small models of Phaeton in different body colors, in different upholstery colors and plain samples of panel colors. Each piece is coded and put in front of the code reader generates an assembled image of the car on the screen. So that customers can play with the colors and a few other things before they decide on what they want in their Phaeton. In case a customer wants a color outside those available, that can also be done but that obviously comes at a price.
From here we were taken to a globe like structure bang in the middle of the facility. A small film was shown about the company. Incidentally, the subtitles were in Chinese and why not, 70% of the cars from this facility go to China. About 20% remain in Germany and the 10% goes to the rest of the world. Less than 10 cars come to India per year. Globe structure commemorates the original spherical structure that stood at this place before the IInd world war. It was a place that hosted art and culture. The factory keeps the tradition alive by hosting musical concerts and by inviting artists to work here. In fact, an orchestra celebrated factory’s 10th anniversary by using original parts of phaeton to produce music.
The assembly line besides being open and transparent behind glass walls is interesting. The middle part of the assembly line moves as employees in their white uniform handcraft the cars. For a manufacturing facility, the place is very quiet and everything just seems to be moving on its own. We stood by to see a couple of robots fit the spare wheel and the windshields and sense of wonder made me feel like a kid. The spare parts moved on their own in a basket up and down the elevators, car bodies on a monorail like suspension came down and settled on a platform. Engineers calmly worked on fixing thousands of big and small parts to the body.
Black seems to be a very popular color as my visual survey said more than 80% of the cars were black on the shop floor. Finished cars reach the quality check area where they are taken for a test drive. How I wished they would let me test drive a brand new vehicle. But guess that was too much to ask for.
Quality Check & Delivery
After the quality check, the cars go to a tall glass tower from where they are delivered to the customers. Handing over is also made special. Outside the glass walls, you can hear low sounds of the birds chirping. These are artificial sounds to distract birds so that they do not bang themselves on the glass. Logistics – that includes transporting parts to and from the warehouse on the outskirts of the city is done using a cargo tram. The Tram runs like the other Trams in the city and does not put any additional pressure on the city traffic even when the manufacturing facility is located in the middle of the city.
In the end, we were left with a few models to click pictures with or have a closer look at. This tour is open to anyone for a small price. Reportedly this is one of its kind auto-manufacturing unit in the world. Auto enthusiasts may find this tour to be the sole reason to visit Dresden.
Popular Mechanics have collected these 21 cool facts about this transparent factory.
All Pics courtesy Volkswagen Media Services.
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