Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Visit to the VW "Glass Factory," Dresden

Yesterday the class took a short ride to Dresden and visited the VW "Glass Factory," an assembly plant in which the luxury Phaeton is made. Yes, Phaetons are still in production, although the model is no longer available in the American market. These cars sell for between 70,000 to 125,000 Euros, and one wonders why anyone would pay that kind of money to get into an expensive car and look at the VW logo on the steering wheel!

Due to reduced demand, only about 28 cars a day are made at this facility, opened in 2001 at a cost of 186 million Euros. The cars are very nice and extremely well made, as great care is expended at every stage of the manufacturing process. Like the other manufacturers located in former Eastern Germany, energy and ecology are given a high priority, and thus supplier parts are brought in to this factory via a tram system that uses public tram tracks.

But make no mistake, this facility is here not only to make cars, but also to sell them. Visitors are encouraged to "make their own" Phaeton, and an elaborate ceremony takes place when a person who ordered one of these cars comes to pick it up.

As a historian, the best part of this visit is seeing the 1936 Horch open limo that was once owned by Ethiopia's Haile Selassie. Unfortunately, the car is located so close to the shop floor that one cannot take photos, a rather silly rule given the fact that anyone can tour this facility and see what the VW folks are up to.

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