I have visited the Phaeton assembly plant in Dresden several times, and thoroughly enjoyed each visit. The building and grounds are beautiful, and the whole process of both making and selling Phaetons is totally different than that for any other car in the world.
I have put together some photos, to provide a bit of a 'tour' for folks who have not yet been to Dresden. I hope you find them informative. If you would like to visit the factory, they are very much 'visitor oriented' - the factory is open about 10 to 12 hours a day for visitors, and there are two possible ways to make a tour:
For the general public - anyone who is interested in visiting, kids, adults, whomever: There are both guided and self-guided tours available almost every day. There are interpretive exhibits, partially assembled Phaeton components and cutaway models, and even a 6 axis full motion W12 simulator, complete with a visual system, to allow you to 'test drive' a W12 on the autobahn at any speed up to the full capability of the Phaeton. Allow about 4 hours for the visit.
For prospective Phaeton purchasers: Contact the reception desk of the factory ahead of time, and make an appointment. A customer service representative will take you on a tour, and assist you in choosing colours and options for your Phaeton. Either before or after, you can browse through the public tour areas mentioned previously. Allow a full day.
The factory is located right in the heart of downtown Dresden, only about a 15 minute walk from the main square (the Church of Our Lady, or Frauenkirche). It is well served by the city public transit system, which stops right at the door. The same tram lines that transport passengers also bring the various Phaeton components to the factory for assembly.
There are a number of very nice hotels quite close-by to choose from, personally, I prefer the Hilton, because of its delightful location right beside the Frauenkirche. The factory has its own website, GLÄSERNE MANUFAKTUR DRESDEN
. Click on the little Union Jack flag in the lower left of the main page if you want to view the site in English. In the meantime - here are some photos that will give you an orientation to the Phaeton build process.
The Factory Itself
The factory is located directly beside the Dresden botanical garden, and VW has taken care to make sure the landscaping compliments the park beside it.
The glass building is especially attractive at dusk.
The factory is located at the intersection of Lennéstrasse and Stübelallee, and there is passenger tram service on both of these streets. If you walk in a north-west direction along Stübelallee for one mile, you will be right in the heart of the old city of Dresden. The name of Stübelallee changes several times as you walk along, but it is obvious that it is the same big, wide promenade.
But, that was not a normal passenger tram...
The tram in the photo above is actually the Volkswagen tram that brings parts from the logistics facility to the Transparent Factory. It looks quite a bit like a normal Dresden tram-car, but if you look at the side of it, you can see that it is a 'freighter', not a passenger tram.
The next two photos give you an idea of the architecture of the building. Yes, it is this clean, every day.
Arrival of the carosserie (body-structure)
The carosserie is built in Zwickau, about 60 miles from Dresden, in the same building as the Bentley Continental GT. It is painted there, and then transported to Dresden. This is more or less what it looks like when it arrives, before Phaeton assembly begins.
The fuselage-stuffing process
Each Phaeton is individually hand built. Sometimes two people work on the car at once, but more often, one person works by him or herself. Because each Phaeton is unique, all the parts and components needed to construct that specific car are picked ahead of time in the logistics center, and loaded onto storage modules. You can see two storage modules, there is one in front and one behind each car. The small square station in the right foreground contains specialized tools that are used to assemble the vehicle at that particular stage of its assembly.
Another view of the work area
The word 'assembly line' really doesn't seem to fit here, but there is a moving line. You can see the two tiny seams in the floor, on either side of the car. The portion of the floor inside those seams moves in a continuous loop throughout the work area. It moves very slowly, about the same speed as a revolving restaurant. You don't really notice the movement when you are inside the factory. The semi-circular arcs in the floor sections allow the entire section to slowly swivel to turn a corner.
Early in the 'stuffing' process.
This is a photo of a Klavierlack Black Phaeton, quite early in the build process. Some components have been installed, but work on the interior trim has not started. The running gear has not yet been installed.
Lifting the Phaeton
At some stages of the build process, it is easier to do the work if the car can be lifted up and moved around as needed. The overhead cranes lift the car up, using the same 4 points that the car normally rests on, and the employee can then move the vehicle around as he or she wants. The working environment in this assembly plant has been very carefully thought out - there is no comparison with other car manufacturing facilities.
Mating the body-structure and the running gear.
Once all the wiring, electronic components, and other necessary parts are installed into the carosserie, it is then time to mate the body-structure with the running gear. The running gear is also assembled by hand, and brought to the main production area by an elevator. Little magnetic sensors beneath the wood floor guide the cart that contains the running gear to the correct position beside the overhead crane.
A different view of this work area:
Aligning the carosserie and the running gear
This is the first stage of the mating process - to make sure everything is correctly lined up.
The carosserie is lowered to a comfortable working height
Note that the little electrically powered cart that was holding the running gear in the photo above has now moved out of the way. These carts are quite sophisticated, and move to the correct locations on their own, once the craftspeople are finished with them and initiate the movement process.
Attaching and connecting different parts
Now you can see the advantage of being able to keep the body-structure well above the floor.
The running gear then moves up, once everything is aligned.
(Bet you thought the car was going to move down, right?)
After the mating process
The Phaeton is starting to look a bit more like a finished car. The next major work will be installing the interior trim.
Moving to the next assembly area
Once the Phaeton is on the overhead crane assembly, it makes sense to leave it there until all the required work on the underside of the car has been completed. Once that is done, it will be placed back onto a workstand at surface level, as shown in the photos of the beginning of the process.
Final Visual Inspection
The interior has been installed, fluids added to the car, and the wheels and tires installed. The Phaeton is now moved into the light tunnel for a very thorough visual inspection. The next process after this will be testing the car, on both dynamometers and on the test-track underneath the factory.
And into the storage tower
Phaetons that are built for customers who plan to pick their car up at the factory are placed into the glass storage tower after they have been built, and the complete pre-delivery inspection process is completed. Phaetons that will be shipped overseas go to a different area, to be wrapped in protective packaging. The little courtyard area in the left foreground is part of the public area of the factory. Directly behind it, you can see the assembly areas.