Career opportunities

From vehicle manufacturers to world class suppliers and design consultancies, there are openings at all levels in the industry. Every day in the UK there are men and women designing and engineering cars and parts and assembling them into finished products for sale at home and abroad. Many of these employees made their first tentative steps with training and educational courses based in UK colleges and universities.

Design

Exterior Designer

One of the elite jobs in the car industry.

Responsibility for the exterior styling of a new car is an immensely responsible and fulfilling job. A design degree is a pre-requisite, followed by plenty of experience in a major vehicle manufacturer’s design studio, working up from detail work on sections of the car to ultimately the whole car.

Successful exterior designers are feted like gods; but to get there involves blood, sweat and tears, as well as huge talent.

Quality Manager

The bedrock of the industry, because quality is top of the agenda for every car company.

Quality starts in the design process and carries on through development and into production.

Setting targets for fit and finish and component performance attributes during the project definition phase is a major part of the job, as is following component quality through to production.

Safety Development Engineer

Problem solving and organisational skills are the key attributes of the senior development engineer.

Responsible for setting technical targets during the prototype test-out phase, development engineers also have to fix problems as they emerge on rig tests and road tests around the globe.

Getting all this done to an immovable production deadline makes this job one of the most important in the car industry.

Interior Designer

A successful interior design can make-or-break the hundreds of millions invested in a new car project.

The interior designer will absorb outside influences and express design ideas to satisfy the brand values of the nameplate the car will be sold under.

Choosing materials and liaising with manufacturing teams, then following the design to production to ensure the correct fit-and-finish and material quality is a vital part of this job.

Interior Project Leader

A key competitive edge in any new car programme is a high quality interior.

The project leader for the interior will ensure that the production process stays faithful to the design intent to deliver high-perceived quality in the final production car. Managing suppliers and setting and achieving quality gateways are vital.

Product development

Product Planning Manager

Model and investment cycles in the car industry are measured in multiple years – six or seven being the average.

Getting the cadence of new model intros correct, both replacements for existing models and all-new designs, is a black art.

Many engineers get into this role, as do marketers, because product planning combines technical knowledge with marketing and sales experience.

Crystal ball gazing ten years into the distance is great when it works out, but…

Senior Development Engineer

Problem solving and organisational skills are the key attributes of the senior development engineer.

Responsible for setting technical targets during the prototype test-out phase, development engineers also have to fix problems as they emerge on rig tests and road tests around the globe.

Getting all this done to an immovable production deadline makes this job one of the most important in the car industry.

Engineering

Lead Systems Engineer

Launching a new engine in production requires specialist knowledge in the field of electronic engine controllers and fuel systems.

The lead systems engineer will co-ordinate key Tier 1 suppliers and ensure that the engine software and fuel hardware deliver state-of-the art driving characteristics, fuel economy and tailpipe emissions.

Project Director, Powertrain

A new range of petrol and diesel engines must be designed and developed for production. The project is driven by competitive pressures and new environmental legislation.

The project director will have extensive engineering experience and co-ordinate a team of up to 100 design and production engineers, plus outside consultants and suppliers, over a five-year work cycle to deliver a world-class new range of engines.

Software Engineer

This is a nitty-gritty engineering role that ensures the engine management system controller feeds the correct fuel and ignition pulses to the fuel injectors and spark plugs.

Programming skills and future-proofing for further developments are key parts of the job, working in a sub-team of perhaps a dozen systems engineers and co-ordinating suppliers.

Safety Laboratory Engineer

Crash tests are preformed in specialised crash labs, manned by engineers skilled in this important discipline.

The ‘track’ — along which cars are towed in simulated crashes — must be tested and maintained and the sensors and crash test dummies validated so that the results obtained are reliable.

Setting up crash tests to ensure repeatable results is also a highly-skilled job because exceptional accuracy is required as part of the design and validation process.

Analysing the results and liaising with design and production staff are key parts of the role.

Validation and Simulation Engineer

No new car can go into production without passing legislative crash testing.

As part of the computer-aided design process, the validation and simulation engineer will run virtual crash tests and feed the results back to the design engineers.

When real-world crash tests are performed in the lab, the results are compared to the computer simulations to inform the design and production process.

Chassis Project Leader

Squeezing the best dynamic performance from the suspension, steering and tyres is the key responsibility of the chassis project leader.

The glamorous part of the job is road-testing prototypes at exotic locations around the world.

The less glamorous bit is number crunching the data from sensors festooned around a test car and ensuring that the finished chassis — always a compromise of conflicting technical attributes — appeals to car buyers and the media.

Not an easy job.

Manufacturing Engineer

Ultimately no new car will be successful if it isn’t assembled correctly.

As well as being masters of the manufacturing process — knowing assembly equipment and techniques inside out — manufacturing engineers need the confidence of production line workers.

Ultimately a manufacturing engineer can rise to become a plant director with responsibility for thousands of staff and millions of pounds of investment.

Transmission Design Engineer

Pressure to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions output is driving new developments in transmissions.

A design engineer in this field could be improving existing manual or automatic transmissions or helping to design new ones from scratch.

Integrating gearboxes on petrol and diesel electric hybrids is a growing area for the young engineers of tomorrow.

Vehicle Integration Engineer

Sounds a bit like a non-job, but is far from it.

The complexity of a modern vehicle and the need to score highly in a multitude of confllicting competitive areas — safety and fuel economy, ride and handling, cabin refinement and aural engine feedback — makes vehicle integration one of the most significant on a new car project.

Getting the car to production with the right balance of characteristics is the ultimate aim of the job.