There’s an old adage that likens things to “watching sausage being made,” or seeing what goes into a product will make you less likely to buy something. While such is the case with many things, the car industry — a multi-billion dollar industry in an ever-changing, competitive selling landscape — has deemed this is decidedly not so. Instead, car companies and engineers tend to skew the opposite direction, believing that putting production and precision on display encourages investment and ownership. Read on to find out more about the five car companies that do this better than the others.
Founded in 1985, Wiesmann is a German automobile manufacturer of “puristic sports cars.” Based in Dülmen, Germany, every car that leaves the Wiesmann factory is totally unique; an expression of the future owner’s lifestyle and personality. Although each Wiesmann car is worked on for a total of approximately 350 hours, a tour takes you through the entire production process in one hour. Stops include electronics — where entire cabling is done by hand — and the factory’s own tannery. The best part? The manufacturing plant is shaped like a gecko, after the company’s logo, because “Wiesmann cars stick to the road like geckos stick to the wall.”
2. Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory
The Gläserne Manufaktur — or Factory Made of Glass — was designed by architect Gunter Henn and opened in 2002 in Dresden, Germany. Although the factory is owned and operated by Volkswagen, it’s primarily used to produce only three cars: the Phaeton, the Touareg, and the Volkswagen CC. The first step of quality assurance at the factory is an amusing, though impressive one: each vehicle must drive through a light tunnel 25 meters in length under neon lights to determine if its first impression is satisfactory. Other impressive features of the factory include its extensive tour, which allows visitors to see the body and frames of cars being joined together; bird noises played through loudspeakers around the building to keep birds away from the glass façade; and sodium vapor lamps in the outdoor area so as not to affect the nearby Botanical Gardens.
3. Ford Rouge
Calling itself “America’s Greatest Manufacturing Experience,” the Ford Rouge Factory Tour (several miles south of Detroit) allows visitors to the final assembly process of Ford F-150s from an elevated walkway. Although the factory doesn’t guarantee you’ll see assembly in action, a tour of this plant is only one part of the five-part tour: you’ll also get to take a look at the history of the Rouge through historic video footage and get a walking tour of the factory’s “living roof,” the largest in the world, at 454,000 square feet, or 10.4 acres. Approximately 6,000 Ford employees still work at the “Rouge,” and the 600-acre site remains Ford Motor Company’s largest single industrial complex.
Situated on the Ängelholm airfield, the factory of this hyper-luxury car — around a cool $1.5 million per vehicle — has a dedicated helipad “for those who prefer to travel by helicopter.” They also take advantage of their location, and use old airstrips to test their cars for high-speed ability. Most Koenigsegg cars are extremely limited — e.g. produced in series of two — and can accelerate at amazing speeds (think 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds.) Each car is also subjected to 18 different crash tests during its development, and sports a “Ghost” motif in tribute to the fighter jet squadron from the Swedish Royal Air Force that previously occupied the airfield.
For car aficionados, there might not be a better spot than Lamborghini’s factory in Bologna, Italy. Here, visitors can see the production line of the engines, which are assembled completely by hand, and watch as a computer-aided machine sorts through different qualities of leather before it is applied to the car’s interior. Visitors can also find a photographic timeline of the car and see notable replicas from the car’s history, including the Countach, the first car to break 300-km/h, and the Lamborghini LM 002, an off-road variation originally developed for military purposes. Instead of flying to Italy, however, take a look on Google Maps. That’s right — Google’s street view allows you to virtually navigate through the two-story structure.