Picture a car factory where customers can come along and watch their vehicle being put together by hand, while discussing details like the colour of the trim as it passes down the line; a plant equipped with cinemas, restaurants and shops for customers who want a break from looking the production process.
This is the vision of Volkswagen chief executive Ferdinand Piech, who is seeking a site for such a plant. It would produce a 12-cylinder limousine, comparable to the Mercedes S class, and would employ as many as 1,000 people.
VW’s plan is to make buying a car a total experience, with a new kind of plant that could attract up to 500,000 visitors a year.
But Piech’s plan has run into problems. VW wants to build the plant in Dresden, the historic metropolis of eastern Germany.
Piech and his team first looked over the city in May and they’ve been trying to secure a site for the planned ‘glass factory’ ever since.
But Dresden’s mayor and the town council are reluctant to give the go-ahead for the project, even though the proposed site is on the edge of the city and under-utilised.
Dresden’s leaders argue that they could use the land to extend the city’s botanical gardens or to house a museum.
VW has had to put the project on hold for the time being, according to recent reports, although now Liepzig, another east German town, is looking to step in. The town has even produced a brochure entitled ‘VW Welcome to Leipzig’.
The town’s mayor has offered at least three attractive sites for the plant and has promised problem-free planning permission.
However, Leipzig may not be the kind of location Volkswagen is looking for.
Unlike Dresden, with its Baroque architecture and rich cultural heritage, Leipzig is a gritty town, known for its heavy industry.
Companies face war claims
Much has been written recently about compensation for victims of the holocaust. Now some of Germany’s biggest companies are facing a new wave of massive compensation claims being drawn up by lawyers in the US.
The claims are against some of Germany’s biggest corporate names that are thought to have used forced labour during the second world war.
Some observers are warning that the cases could lead to boycotts of German products and companies having to make huge pay-outs.
According to reports here, newly-elected chancellor Gerhard Schroder is due to meet top management from a range of companies, including VW, BMW, Siemens and Daimler-Benz, to discuss the issue.
The setting up of a fund by companies involved and the German government has been proposed by Walther Leisler Keip, a former VW director and now a leading consultant.
Chancellor Schroder, who is understood to have impressed industry with the speed at which he is moving on a number of issues, has been backed for the role of mediator between the companies involved and US lawyers.