Automotive engineers are involved in the motor vehicle manufacturing cycle from initial design and development stages through to the final production phase. They work in a wide range of fields including body, chassis and engine systems; electrical and electronic instrumentation and control systems; thermo- and aerodynamics; fluid mechanics; performance analysis; materials engineering; computer-aided engineering and design; and fuel technology and emissions.
Automotive engineers work for vehicle manufacturers, components suppliers, motorsport companies, and specialist engineering consultancy services. Their work falls into three broad categories:
Design – using draughting skills, computer-aided design software and modelling systems to turn preliminary ideas in to working blueprints for development and testing. Designs may be geared towards a completely new product range, refinements to existing vehicles or changes to components and assemblies. Engineers must consider the aesthetics, reliability, safety, commercial viability and environmental impact of designs. They may also be responsible for the production of technical manuals to accompany design projects.
Development – turning design plans into prototypes to allow testing and modification before the production stage. A combination of computer simulation and physical testing is carried out to assess product or component strengths and weaknesses, for example, testing the aerodynamic properties of a design in a wind tunnel. Development engineers also carry out cost, performance and safety analysis of prototypes.
Production – once a design has been approved for manufacture, engineers plan and monitor the production process. This may include design or redesign of machine tools, equipment and processes in order to produce the product to the desired specification, cost and timescale. Production engineers also oversee quality control to ensure that finished products meet set quality standards.
Automotive engineers work in multidisciplinary teams consisting of craftspeople, technicians and professional engineers, with experience in mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineering.
Additional duties include managing projects, supervision of technical teams, writing reports and negotiating with clients.
Automotive engineers usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although engineers in production may work shifts.
Depending on responsibilities, work could be office-based, in a research facility or manufacturing plant.
To be an automotive engineer you should:
The automotive industry employs around 235,000 people around the UK in vehicle manufacture and design, and component supplies. The UK is also a world centre of excellence in the motorsport engineering industry. Prospects are good for qualified engineers. The main centres of production are in the Midlands, north-west, north-east and south-east. With experience, promotion to senior engineer, project management, general management and consultancy may be possible.
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