Most car factories are large industrial complexes with older buildings and smoke stacks belching out smoke. When you have toured a few, they mostly look similar and you often know what to expect. The transparent factory from Volkswagen is very different. It is located in the city center of Dresden and looks like a regular office building.
This factory was build in 2002 and is the place where the Volkswagen Phaeton comes to life. They also assembled the Bentley Continental Flying Spur here but that was transferred to the Bentley factory in England in 2006.Die Gläserne Manufaktur (in German) can be translated to glass or transparent factory. Transparent outside walls and transparency for the production process.
There are guided tours in small groups of up to 15 people. They are available during the day and evening and last about 75 minutes. The tour takes you to an elevated area where you’re high above the assembly floor. Most automobile factories can be very noisy but the first thing you notice is the quietness of the entire place.
The maple floors are another unique feature and the assembly line that is built in to the floor slides along slowly. Robot carts seem to move freely and deliver the necessary parts to each workstation. The assembly workers ( if you even may call them that) wear white overalls and look more like surgeons performing complex operations.
My tour was in German but they also have tours in English and other languages. Even the young German lady who guided us through the factory spoke German with a surgical precision. Smartly dressed and knowledgeable about the entire production process, it just seemed you wouldn’t expect anything less. It was not allowed to take any pictures where the cars were assembled. These pictures are just a few from their website to give an idea of the production process and environment.
The factory is a place where cars are assembled from parts that were already made somewhere else. Body parts are pressed and painted at another VW factory in Zwickau and other parts are made by many different suppliers. At the back of the factory and below street level, the CarGo trams and freight trucks deliver the parts. There isn’t room for parts storage so everything is delivered just-in-time.
The Volkswagen Lounge is below the main lobby area. There was a small shop and several different VW models were displayed, including a Phaeton. Visitors have the opportunity to get up close for a look behind the steering wheel or from the backseat. Interior quality seemed almost Audi-like in appearance while the exterior looks understated.
The restaurant and cafe/bar Lesage is a good place to have a drink, lunch or dinner. One of their menu items is the Original VW Currywurst. Volkswagen operates its own Fleischerei in Wolfsburg and they produce more than 2 million curry sausages per year. That’s a lot of sausages! The main inredient is pork which comes from farmers in the north of Germany. They only have 20% fat so it is not too unhealthy. Sausages are smoked for 2 hours and steamed for 45 minutes. And yes, they are delicious. The large portion with fries and VW ketchup was only euro 6,50.
If you are even remotely interested in cars, this is definitely a place to put on your list of things-to-see. And even if you are not into cars at all, it is still a very interesting experience and a great place to spend a few hours. Don’t forget the curry wurst either! For much more information and many pictures, please make sure to check out their website: Die Gläserne Manufaktur