I only e-mailed the factory three days before our visit last week... they were closed for business, but since I am an owner, they most graciously offered to give us the tour anyway.
We were immediately escorted to their lounge, a large room with panoramic windows with a view of the Dresden skyline. There are several sitting areas in there. Ours featured several Dynaudio speakers playing Corelli's Concerto Grosso, Op.6 No.8 at a very low volume, but since it was coming from numerous speakers, it was very agreeable (Dynaudio speakers are now the upgrade choice for Phaeton). After some conversation, we were advised we couldn't take pictures outside of the lounge, so we adhered to the rules for the rest of the visit.
Our first stop was an overview of the factory's building sections from an inside terrace. It was striking to see the factory's workstations all loaded with work in process, just as if the staff was on a lunch break! We were offered a visit of the manufacturing floors downstairs. For this, we were issued white overcoats. My most vivid recollections of the visit are:
• Each workstation stop in the Phaeton assembly line takes 18 minutes to perform its job. By comparison, a Golf workstation at other VW plants may take around 1.5 minutes.
• The wire loom weighs 60 kilos or over 100 lbs. There are a lot of wires on this car.
• Just before the "marriage" section, there was a W12 powertrain featuring its massive ceramic brakes, which are now standard on W12. Those looked just about the size of tires on a regular car, and were definitively über-cool looking.
• It takes longer to test the car after assembly than it does to build it; this is why they put in 8 gallons of fuel —30 l.— at the fluids-filling workstation. Car testing includes their subterranean torture (rattle) track and a drive in the actual Dresden roads!
• The fluids-filling workstation parquet floor is just as spotless as the rest of the assembly line.
• Over half of the Manufaktur's production goes to China. Easy to spot on the assembly line: the VIN plate on the frame of the right-hand side front passenger door is not in our Roman alphabet. Most of these cars are gasoline V6, whereas in the European market the TDI V6 predominates. Many of the China-bound car are four seaters, as apparently Phaeton owners are driven, instead of drivers.
• The leather dashes with contrasting-color sewing, the black wood accents, the saddle and chocolate brown leathers, the piping on the seats, the Alcantara... wow. Stunning. My beige/brown interior looks positively pedestrian. There is something to be said about 90% of German owners being willing to come to the Manufaktur to pick their car. The US market, with its take-whatever-is-on-the-dealer's tradition dumbs down design selection to beige and grey, basically. Minimum common denominator.
• The office space right in the middle of the moving assembly loops. Excellent!
• Sensitive leather still comes from Poltrona Frau in Italy. The other type of leather comes from a company in Austria, if I recall correctly.
• The drivetrain of the car before the marriage includes one part that can be seen from inside the cabin: the gearbox shifter... I had forgotten the shifter, which feels so solid and powerful... is just a computer interface. A joystick. There is just a wire loom running from the shifter box to the gearbox.
Since the factory was closed, I was unable to purchase a replacement LED lamp accessory for the cigarette holder at the souvenir store. €16! These things in Phaeton silver cost like 80 bucks stateside! We were offered a courtesy 6-inch black Phaeton model, instead, for free, because I think our extremely nice and courteous hosts were a somewhat embarrased about the factory being closed.
I was a happy camper. If you visit Dresden, I also highly recommend Glashütte 30 kms south. The German Clock Museum and Glashütte Original guided factory tour are can't misses if you like watches. And one can buy a Nomos watch.
Modified by Itzmann at 12:19 PM 1-12-2010