Thursday, June 18, 2009

Porsche-Leipzig Visit, June 17

After nearly 6 weeks in Leipzig, we finally made it to the Porsche facility, one of the most modern assembly plants in the world. Located near the Leipzig airport and northwest of the city center, this site is a must visit for anyone wanting to learn more about the contemporary auto industry. After a remarkable lunch in a restaurant located at the top of the visitor center, we were taken for an in-depth tour of the plant by our guide Christa, who without a doubt ranked at the very top of all museum/plant tour guides during our trip both in terms of enthusiasm and knowledge. Currently the mixed line Cayenne/Panamera production process makes about 78 cars per shift, with two shifts per day, and a 5 Cayenne/1 Panamera mix. About 17% of the product is now going to China. Right now, all Panameras are going to the press and to dealers, with customer production starting September 17.

The plant is located next to the track, where one can take a driver education class, or just be piloted around a course that has numerous GP track design features. We were also taken into a state-of-the-art camera facility, where there are more than 20 cameras that video one's driving experience. In short, it is simply impossible to describe the facility to you. You need to visit, or minimally look at the Porsche-Leipzig URL at

What struck me the most about the tour was the answer to a question I posed to Christa about plant absenteeism. Recently we had visited Opel at Eisenach where I learned that absenteeism was at about 7%. Christa did not even understand the question! Apparently unless one is sick, there is simply is no absenteeism at this Porsche plant. As she explained, people are proud to work at Porsche, and the more than 500 employees working there are a tight knit group. That story was repeated at BMW as well. Elite manufacturers, making smaller units of vehicles, simply do not have the labor problems of those pushing higher rates of cars per hour.
In sum, the visit here was a capstone to our study of the German auto industry. From all accounts, and despite the world-wide recession and drop in consumer demand, the German luxury manufacturers are optimistic and will hold on, despite the storm. Both BMW and Porsche employees possess strong emotional ties to their work, their products, and their organizations.

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