Pay Grade: Cruising For a New Look

The job: Car designer

The pay: Talented entry-level designers can earn $100,000 to $200,000 a year, people in the industry say — and for executives at big auto concerns, the sky’s the limit.

The hours: Designers, who create everything from car exteriors to instrument panels, dashboards and the rest of the interior, regularly work 40-hour weeks. For special projects — like preparing concept models and 3-D sketches for the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit — weeks can stretch to 60 hours or more.

Benefits: Standard medical, dental, vision and prescription-drug package, plus a matching 401(k) plan.

Other incentives: Discounts or stipends for company-made cars, annual bonuses, and trips to events such as auto shows and furniture conventions.

Career path: Most new hires win jobs through summer internships, where they expand their creative thinking and product-development skills. Math proficiency is increasingly important: Designers work with computer programs such as Alias Sketchbook Pro. Good math skills also improve communications with engineers, designers say, reducing technical problems.

Best part of the job: “I just get a kick out of seeing something I sketched drive down the road,” says Ford Motor Co. Executive Design Director Peter Horbury, whose team designed the 2007 Volvo C30 hatchback.


The Ford Motor Company (commonly referred to simply as Ford) is an American multinational automaker headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. It was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. The company sells automobiles and commercial vehicles under the Ford brand and most luxury cars under the Lincoln brand. Ford also owns Brazilian SUV manufacturer, Troller, and Australian performance car manufacturer FPV. In the past it has also produced tractors and automotive components. Ford owns a 2.1% stake in Mazda of Japan, an 8% stake in Aston Martin of the United Kingdom, and a 49% stake in Jiangling of China. It also has a number of joint-ventures, one in China (Changan Ford Mazda), one in Taiwan (Ford Lio Ho), one in Thailand (AutoAlliance Thailand), one in Turkey (Ford Otosan), and one in Russia (Ford Sollers). It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is controlled by the Ford family, although they have minority ownership.


Worst part of the job: “Since there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, designers need to be patient in order to be successful and get the big win,” says Greg Brncick, advanced principal designer at French auto-parts company Faurecia SA’s North American division in Holland, Mich. “Being in Detroit is really hard right now because of the state of the automotive industry,” notes Peter Ojeda, senior design manager at Johnson Controls Inc. “Many are being laid off or leaving to work for other industries.”

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