A unique factory, a Jayhawk in Germany!

Dresden, Saxony in Germany is also the home of one of the Volkswagen manufacturers. But the one we visited today was unlike any other factory. Here, Volkswagen produces the Phaeton. A luxury line of cars. These cars are made only at the customers’ request. You won’t find a parking lot full of Phaetons. Leather interior and a fridge in the back seat is standard! One customer put a 19″ TV screen in his Phaeton! And they showed us the raw wood from which the paneling comes from. It didn’t even sound like a factory. They call it the “transparent factory” and its green environment feels like an office. I mean, have you ever seen a car factory with wooden floors! It smells like a new car inside the factory. A Phaeton price range starts at 67, thousand Euros and can cost up to 105 thousand Euros ($130,000 U.S. dollars) and currently their biggest buyers market is Asia. Volkswagen presented the Phaeton in the U.S. market in 2006 but discovered that Americans were more interested in SUV’s so they pulled the Phaeton out of the U.S. and introduced the Toureg instead. They employ about 500 workers all of them are from the state of Saxony. And the crew on the line has a minimum of three years experience. The line moves very slow and workers have 12 to 16 minutes to put in their specific part. Mostly all work is manual. Very few robots. Here are a few photos of us in our white coats, no goggles or ear plugs. We all got a chance to sit in style in one of these luxury cars.
After our tour, we visited with a professor and currently Saxony Commissioner of Integration over cake and coffee (an afternoon thing here in Germany). When I mentioned I was from the Kansas City market, imagine my surprise when the German professor Dr. Gillo, said, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”. He completed his graduate studies at KU and spent 20 years in America. When asked what he liked the most about the states…”I loved Kansas and the people” was among his remarks.
Dr. Martin Gillo, in the last photo, talked about the immigration issues in East Germany. Saxony is in East Germany. This part of Germany has very few foreigners. I mean, 98 percent are white Saxons. I walked the beautiful streets of Dresden and I didn’t see any black people, Turkish people, dark people. Sometimes I felt as if I was in display. Nothing bad, but I caught a few second glances. I saw a few groups of Asians. Dr. Gillo says the state is working on increasing integration but its moving slow. Refugees seek asylum in Germany mostly coming from Vietnam and Russia.
It’s difficult for Saxons to open up to foreigners. Dr. Gillo explained. He says long ago the SS, Secret Service, often followed foreigners, so people stayed away from them. Saxons are not the type of people who will come and talk to you but if you talk to them they will likely open up to you says Dr. Gillo. The former chancellor of Germany Chancellor Kohl would often say, “Germany is not the place for integration!” but the current Chancellor Angela Merkel says the opposite says Dr. Gillo. Recently, Saxony citizens completed a research survey and were asked if they wanted to change things and open up to integration or do they want things to stay the same…56 percent said yes. But the other 44 percent wanted things to stay the same. And its worse in rural areas.
Saxony is the first state in Germany to implement a migration program. The state is working on better conditions for refugees to become German citizens by changing the laws so they can work in this country upon arrival instead of waiting a full year. Also, allowing refugees to live in apartments other than the dormitories they are required to live in today. This was among one of the best speakers I think we’ve had. Not because he was Jayhawk but because he helped me to understand Germany a little better. Tomorrow, we leave Dresden and head to Prague. More to come…

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