Automotive Engineer Career Information

Automotive engineers are involved in all aspects of vehicle development, production and design from the blueprint to the finished product. They're also involved in design of the production line processes.

The Work Environment

Automotive engineers are automotive specialists and industrial engineers. The nature of their work environment and jobs covers both elements of engineering. As purely automotive engineers, they're involved in the design and manufacture of cars and other vehicles and their components. As industrial engineers, they're also involved in quality control, production methods, design of production lines, testing, checking for statutory compliance, and other parts of the industrial process.

The design process includes:

  • Conceptual design: The idea of a new vehicle model. The concept may be purely visual, or performance based, or be a "market design", like the current version of a family car, an upgrade on an older model incorporating new design features.
  • Product specifications: These are the parameters of vehicle design, upon which the rest of the design is based. If for example, the design is for a 3 ton truck, the mechanical, power, suspension and other considerations flow from that specification, etc.
  • Performance design: This is complete engine and power systems design, everything affecting the performance of the vehicle. It's also linked to the vehicle's "drive-ability."
  • Blueprint and component design: This is CAD design at all levels. For manufacturing purposes, each component of a new model must be designed, individually, with a separate plan for its manufacturing. (In many cases minor components are standardized, but all new elements require exact, detailed plans for production.)
  • Cost evaluations: Particularly important, the cost of the production process is the defining value of the end product. The component values are also assessed for commercial values.

The industrial design process involves several areas:

  • Design of the production process: Although most production is general purpose machining and many of the components are standardized, the cost efficiency of the production line is another factor in profitability. In major production lines, millions of dollars can be made by efficient processes.
  • Safety systems design: This is naturally related to the auto design function, but also includes some fundamental industrial design requirements and meeting statutory safety standards, and is effectively a separate process.
  • Testing: A basic part of design, checking the components and in many cases major design elements like the suspension, frame and aerodynamics of the vehicle design. Usually includes some product life testing, which covers the issues of part and vehicle reliability.

    Wages

    Average $37 per hour, depending on qualifications, experience, specialty and nature of position. May also include contract commissions for design elements.

    Hours

    Can be variable, depending on the production, testing and design schedules.

    The Career Environment

    The Career Environment allows for some job mobility, but being a technical profession, it's necessary to know the employment market very well to achieve effective career progression. A career track can also diverge into a broad spectrum of specializations. Automotive engineers are able to specialize across a large range of options:
      • Safety systems
      • Emissions systems
      • Engines and power systems
      • "Noise, Vibrations and Harshness" engineering (quality control design)
      • Manufacturing
      • "Systems" engineering: This includes the large range of on-board systems and related design and production issues.