Volkswagen officials like to boast that their Glaserne Manufaktur, or Transparent Factory, is “the most modern manufacturing plant in the world.” Perhaps so, but at least among mainstream auto manufacturers, it is undoubtedly the least efficient.
The striking, glass-walled assembly line, built a stone’s throw from the reborn city of Dresden, Germany, was designed to produce VW’s first true luxury car, the Phaeton. The project has had as much to do with corporate ego as with corporate earnings.
Though the Phaeton has been pulled from the U.S. market, a victim of nearly non-existent sales, VW continues to produce it for Europe and a few other markets, albeit at a glacial pace of just 24 vehicles a day, barely a quarter of what the plant was designed for – and even that was a figure company officials privately admit would have been difficult to earn a profit on.
But the facility is nonetheless a striking example of what can be done if money is no object and you’re focused as much on image – and willing to keep your powerful labor unions happy – as anything else.