Automotive Industry: Jobs/Careers

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  • ++ Describe the reasons why today's automotive industry is considered a global industry.
  • ++ Explain how computer technology has changed the way vehicles are built and serviced.
  • ++ Explain why the need for qualified automotive technicians is increasing.
  • ++ Describe the major types of businesses that employ automotive technicians.
  • ++ List some of the many job opportunities available to people with a background in automotive technology.
  • ++ Describe the different ways a student can gain work experience while attending classes.
  • ++ Describe the requirements for ASE certification as an automotive technician and as a master auto technician.


Each year millions of new cars and light trucks are produced and sold in North America. The automotive industry's part in the total economy of the United States is second only to the food industry. Manufacturing, selling, and servicing these vehicles are parts of an incredibly large, diverse, and expanding industry.

--Toyota’s Camry and Ford's F-150 pickup have been best-selling vehicles in America for many years.

Thirty years ago, America's "big three" automakers-General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Corporation dominated the auto industry. This is no longer true.

The industry is now a global industry. Automakers from Japan, Korea, Germany, Sweden, and other European and Asian countries compete with companies in the United States for domestic and foreign sales.

Several foreign manufacturers, such as Honda, Toyota, and BMW, operate assembly plants in the United States and Canada. Automobile manufacturers have joined together, or merged, to reduce costs and increase market share. In addition, many smaller auto manufacturers have been bought by larger companies to form larger global automobile companies.

Most often the ownership of a company is not readily identifiable by the brand name. An example of this is Ford Motor Company; Ford brands include Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Volvo, and Mazda.

There are also a number of vehicles built jointly by the United States and foreign manufacturers.

These vehicles are built and sold in North America or exported to other countries.



Manufacturer; Country of Origin; Approx. Units Sold Annually; Notes

Toyota Motor Corp. Japan 8.8 million Includes Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu, and Hino General Motors U.S. 8.7 million Includes GM/Daewoo, Holden, Hummer, Opel, and Saab Ford Motor Co. U.S. 6.0 million Includes Volvo Car Corp.; Volkswagen AG Germany 5.7 million Includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Skoda, and Seat Hyundai-Kia Automotive Korea 3.8 million Includes Hyundai and Kia Honda Motor Co. Japan 3.6 million Includes Acura Nissan Motor Co. Japan 3.5 million Includes Infiniti PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA France 3.4 million Includes Citroen and Peugeot Daimler Benz AG Germany 2.7 million Includes Mercedes-Benz, Smart, EvoBus, Freightliner, and Mitsubishi Fuso Renault SA France 2.4 million Includes Dacia and Renault-Samsung Motors Fiat S.p.A. Italy 2.3 million Includes Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Iveco, Lancia, and Maserati Suzuki Motor Corp. Japan 2.2 million Chrysler LLC U.S. 2.0 million BMW Group 11 Germany 1.4 million Includes Rolls-Royce and Cooper Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Japan 1.3 million Mazda Motor Corp. Japan 1.2 million AutoVaz Russia 860 thousand China FAW Group Corp. China 682 thousand Isuzu Motors Ltd. Japan 651 thousand Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Japan 602 thousand Includes Subaru Dongfeng Motor Corp. China 460 thousand Chongqing Changan China 456 thousand Tata Motors Ltd. India 454 thousand Includes Jaguar and Land Rover Shanghai Automotive China 420 thousand Includes Wuling Beijing Automobile Works China 337 thousand Chery Automobile Co. China 304 thousand Hafei Motor Co. China 231 thousand Volvo Truck Group Sweden 230 thousand Includes Mack Trucks, RVI, Volvo Buses, and Nissan Diesel Motor Co.

AutoGaz Russia 224 thousand Zhejiang Geely China 204 thousand Anhui Jianghuai China 172 thousand Paccar U.S. 167 thousand Includes DAF, Kenworth, Leyland, Peterbilt, and Foden Navistar International U.S. 158 thousand Mahindra and Mahindra India 148 thousand Iran Khodro Iran 132 thousand Proton Malaysia 126 thousand Includes Lotus Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei China 126 thousand SsangYong Motor Co. Korea 110 thousand Porsche AG Germany 96 thousand Jiangxi Changhe China 89 thousand MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Germany 87 thousand Scania Sweden 65 thousand MG Rover Group U.K. 53 thousand Others China 122 thousand Includes Great Wall Motor Co. and Southeast ( Fujian) Motor Co.

Others India 116 thousand Includes Ashok Leyland, Eicher Motors, Force Motors/Bajaj Tempo, and Hindustan Motors Ltd


This cooperation between manufacturers has given customers an extremely wide selection of vehicles to choose from. This variety has also created new challenges for automotive technicians, based on one simple fact: Along with the different models come different systems.

++ An understanding of electronics is a must for all automotive technicians.

++ The Toyota Prius is the best selling hybrid vehicle.

++ Good technicians are able to follow specific manufacturers' diagnostic charts and interpret the results of diagnostic tests.

The Importance of Auto Technicians

The automobile started out as a simple mechanical beast. It moved people and things with little regard to the environment, safety, and comfort. Through the years these concerns have provided the impetus for design changes. One area that has affected automobile design the most is the same area that has greatly influenced the rest of our lives, electronics. Today's automobiles are sophisticated electronically controlled machines. To provide comfort and safety while being friendly to the environment, today's automobiles use the latest developments of many different technologies- mechanical and chemical engineering, hydraulics, refrigeration, pneumatics, physics, and, of course, electronics.

An understanding of electronics is a must for all automotive technicians. The needed level of understanding is not that of an engineer; rather, technicians need a practical understanding of electronics. In addition to having the mechanical skills needed to remove, repair, and replace faulty or damaged components, today's technician also must be able to diagnose and service complex electronic systems.

Computers and electronic devices are used to control the operation of an engine. Because of these controls, today's automobiles use less fuel, perform better, and run cleaner than those in the past.

Electronic controls also are used in nearly all systems of an automobile. The number of electronically controlled systems on cars and trucks increases each year. There are many reasons for the heavy insurgence of electronics into automobiles. Electronics are based on electricity and electricity moves at the speed of light. This means the operation of the various systems can be monitored and changed very quickly. Electronic components have no moving parts, are durable, don’t require periodic adjustments, and are very light. All of these allow today's automobiles to be more efficient, cleaner, safer, and better performing than vehicles of the past.

The application of electronics has also led to the success of hybrid vehicles. A hybrid vehicle has two separate sources of power. Those power sources can work together to move the vehicle or can power the vehicle on their own. Today's hybrid vehicles are moved by electric motors and/or a gasoline engine. Hybrid vehicles are complex machines and all who work on them must be properly trained.

The design of today's automobiles is also influenced by legislation. Throughout history, automobile manufacturers have been required to respond to new laws designed to make automobiles safer and cleaner-running. In response to these laws, new systems and components are introduced. Anyone desiring to be a good technician must regularly update his or her skills to keep up with the technology.

Legislation has not only influenced the design of gasoline-powered vehicles, it has also led to a wider use of diesel engines in passenger vehicles. By man dating cleaner diesel fuels, the laws have opened the door for clean burning and highly efficient diesel engines. These new engines are also fit with electronic controls.

++ Regular preventive maintenance (PM) is important for keeping electronic control systems operating correctly. A common part of PM is changing the engine's oil and filter.

Many states have laws that require owners to have their vehicles' exhaust tested on an annual basis.

Some states require automobiles to pass an annual or biannual Inspection/Maintenance (I/M) test.

Today's automotive technician must be able to find the cause of test failures and correct them.

The Need for Quality Service

The need for good technicians continues to grow.

Currently there is a great shortage of qualified auto motive technicians. This means there are, and will be, excellent career opportunities for good technicians.

Good technicians are able to diagnose and repair problems in today's automobiles.

Car owners demand that when things go wrong, they should be "fixed right the first time." The primary reason some technicians are unable to fix a particular problem is simply that they cannot find the cause of the problem. Today's vehicles are complex and a great amount of knowledge and understanding is required to diagnose them. Today's technicians must have good diagnostic skills. Technicians who can identify and solve problems the first time the vehicle is brought into the shop are wanted by the industry and have many excellent career opportunities.

The Need for Ongoing Service

Electronic controls have not eliminated the need for routine service and scheduled maintenance (). In fact, they have made it more important than ever. Although electronic systems can make adjustments to compensate for some problems, a computer cannot replace worn parts. A computer cannot tighten loose belts or change dirty coolant or engine oil. Simple problems such as these can set off a chain of unwanted events in an engine control sys tem. Electronic controls are designed to help a well maintained vehicle operate efficiently. They are not designed to repair systems.

Electronic systems are based on the same principles as a computer. In fact, these systems rely on a computer to control the operation of a component or system. Instead of a keyboard, automotive electronic systems rely on sensors or inputs. These send information to the computer. The computer receives the inputs and through computer logic causes a component to change the way it’s operating. These con trolled outputs are similar to your computer screen or printer.

Each automobile manufacturer recommends that certain maintenance services be performed according to a specific schedule. These maintenance procedures are referred to as preventive maintenance (PM) because they are designed to prevent problems. Scheduled PM normally includes oil and filter changes; coolant and lubrication services; replacement of belts and hoses; and replacement of spark plugs, filters, and worn electrical parts.

If the owner fails to follow the recommended maintenance schedule, the vehicle's warranty might not cover problems that result. For example, if the engine fails during the period covered by the warranty, the warranty may not cover the engine if the owner does not have proof that the engine's oil was changed according to the recommended schedule.


A new car warranty is an agreement by the auto manufacturer to have its authorized dealers repair, replace, or adjust certain parts if they become defective. This agreement typically lasts until the vehicle has been driven 36,000 miles (58,000 km), and/or has been owned for 3 years.

The details of most warranties vary with the manufacturer, vehicle model, and year. Most manufacturers also provide a separate warranty for the powertrain (engine, transmission, and so on) that covers these parts for a longer period than the basic warranty. There are also additional warranties for other systems or components of the vehicle.

Often, according to the terms of the warranty the owner must pay a certain amount of money, called the deductible. The manufacturer pays for all repair costs over the deductible amount.

Battery and tire warranties are often prorated, which means that the amount of the repair bill covered by the warranty decreases over time. Some warranties are held by a third party, such as the manufacturer of the battery or tires. Although the manufacturer sold the vehicle with the battery or set of tires, their warranty is the manufacturer's responsibility.

There are also two government-mandated warranties: the Federal Emissions Defect Warranty and the Federal Emissions Performance Warranty. The Federal Emissions Defect Warranty ensures that the vehicle meets all required emissions regulations and that the vehicle's emission control system works as designed and will continue to do so for 2 years or 24,000 miles. The warranty does not cover problems caused by accidents, floods, misuse, modifications, poor maintenance, or the use of leaded fuels. The systems typically covered by this warranty are:

  • ++ Air induction
  • ++ Fuel metering
  • ++ Ignition
  • ++ Exhaust
  • ++ Positive crankcase ventilation
  • ++ Fuel evaporative control
  • ++ Emission control system sensors

The Federal Emissions Performance Warranty covers the catalytic converter(s) and engine control module for a period of 8 years or 80,000 miles. If the owner properly maintains the vehicle and it fails an emissions test approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an authorized service facility will repair or replace the emission-related parts covered by the warranty at no cost to the owner. Some states, such as California, require the manufacturers to offer additional or extended warranties.


A typical preventive maintenance schedule.


++ Replace engine oil and oil filter

++ Rotate tires

++ Visually inspect brake linings Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions

++ Inspect ball joints and dust covers

++ Inspect drive shaft boots

++ Inspect air filter

++ Inspect steering linkage and boots

++ Re-torque drive shaft bolt

++ Tighten nuts and bolts on chassis


(Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) 15,000 MILES OR 18 MONTHS

(Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)


++ Clean cabin air filter

++ Inspect the following:

• Ball joints and dust covers

• Drive shaft boots

• Engine air filter

• Steering linkage and boots

• Retorque drive shaft bolt

• Tighten nuts and bolts on chassis

20,000 MILES OR 24 MONTHS (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Plus:

++ Replace cabin filter Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)

25,000 MILES OR 30 MONTHS (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)


(Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Plus:

++ Replace cabin filter

++ Rotate tire

++ Replace engine air filter

++ In addition, inspect the following:

• Brake lines and hoses

• Differential oil

• Engine coolant

• Exhaust pipes and mountings

• Fuel lines and connections, fuel tank band, and fuel tank vapor system hoses

• Fuel tank cap gasket

• Radiator core and condenser

• Steering gear box

• Steering linkage and boots

• Transmission fluid or oil

Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)

35,000 MILES OR 42 MONTHS (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)

40,000 MILES OR 48 MONTHS (Same as 20,000 miles and 24 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 20,000 miles and 24 months)

45,000 MILES OR 54 MONTHS (Same as 15,000 miles and 18 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 15,000 miles and 18 months)

50,000 MILES OR 60 MONTHS (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 5,000 miles and 6 months)

55,000 MILES OR 66 MONTHS (Same as 20,000 miles and 24 months) Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 20,000 miles and 24 months)

60,000 MILES OR 72 MONTHS (Same as 15,000 miles and 18 months)


++ Inspect:

• Drive belts

• Engine valve clearance Additional maintenance items for special operating conditions (Same as 15,000 miles and 18 months)


++ Replace front differential oil

++ Replace transmission oil or fluid


++Automotive service technicians can enjoy careers in many different automotive businesses.

All warranty information can be found in the vehicle's owner's manual. Whenever there are questions about the warranties, carefully read that section in the owner's manual. If you are working on a vehicle and know that the part or system is covered under a warranty, make sure to tell the customer before proceeding with your work. Doing this will save the customer money and you will earn his or her trust.

Career Opportunities

Automotive service technicians can enjoy careers in many different types of automotive businesses. Because of the skills required to be a qualified technician, there are also career opportunities for those who don’t want to repair automobiles the rest of their lives. There are also many opportunities for good technicians who want to change careers.

The knowledge required to be a good service technician can open many doors of opportunity.

Dealerships-- New car dealerships serve as the link between the vehicle manufacturer and the customer. They are privately owned businesses. Most dealerships are franchised operations, which means the owners have signed a contract with particular auto manufacturers and have agreed to sell and service their vehicles.

The manufacturer usually sets the sales and ser vice policies of the dealership. Most warranty repair work is done at the dealership. The manufacturer then pays the dealership for making the repair. The manufacturer also provides the service department at the dealership with the training, special tools, equipment, and information needed to repair its vehicles. The manufacturers also help the dealer ships get service business. Often, their commercials stress the importance of using their replacement parts and promote their technicians as the most qualified to work on their products.

Working for a new car dealership can have many advantages. Technical support, equipment, and the opportunity for ongoing training are usually excel lent. At a dealership, you have a chance to become very skillful in working on the vehicles you service.

However, working on one or two types of vehicles does not appeal to everyone. Some technicians want diversity.

++ Dealerships sell and service vehicles made by specific auto manufacturers.

++ Full-service gasoline stations are not as common as they used to be, but they are a good example of an independent service shop.

Independent Service Shops Independent shops may service all types of vehicles or may specialize in particular types of cars and trucks or specific systems of a car. Independent shops outnumber dealerships by six to one. As the name states, an independent service shop is not associated with any particular automobile manufacturer. Many independent shops are started by technicians eager to be their own boss and run their own business.

An independent shop may range in size from a two-bay garage with two to four technicians to a multiple-bay service center with twenty to thirty technicians. A bay is simply a work area for a complete vehicle. The amount of equipment in an independent shop varies; however, most are well equipped to do the work they do best. Working in an independent shop may help you develop into a well rounded technician.

Specialty shops specialize in areas such as engine rebuilding, transmission/transaxle overhauling, and air conditioning, brake, exhaust, cooling, emissions, and electrical work. A popular type of specialty shop is the "quick lube" shop, which takes care of the PM of vehicles. It hires lubrication specialists who change fluids, belts, and hoses in addition to checking certain safety items on the vehicle.

The number of specialty shops that service and repair only one or two systems of the automobile has steadily increased over the past 10 to 20 years. Technicians employed by these shops have the opportunity to become very skillful in one particular area of service.

Franchise Repair Shop: A great number of jobs are available at service shops that are run by large companies such as Firestone, Goodyear, and Midas. These shops don’t normally service and repair all of the systems of the automobile. However, their customers do come in with a variety of service needs. Technicians employed by these shops have the opportunity to become very proficient in many areas of service and repair.

Some independent shops may look like they are part of a franchise but are actually independent.

Good examples of this type of shop are the NAPA service centers. These centers are not controlled by NAPA, nor are they franchises of NAPA. They are called NAPA service centers because the facility has met NAPA's standards of quality and the owner has agreed to use NAPA as the primary source of parts and equipment.

++ A bay in an independent service shop.

++ NAPA service centers are a good example of an independent repair shop that has affiliated with a large business. In these arrangements, the shops are still run independently.

++ Large fleets usually have their own preventive maintenance and repair facilities and technicians.

++ A service technician troubleshoots problems, performs all necessary diagnostic tests, and competently repairs or replaces faulty components.

Store-Associated Shops Other major employers of auto technicians are the service departments of department stores. Many large stores that sell auto motive parts often offer certain types of automotive services, such as brake, exhaust system, and wheel and tire work.

Fleet Service and Maintenance Any company that relies on several vehicles to do its business faces an ongoing vehicle service and PM problem. Small fleets often send their vehicles to an independent shop for maintenance and repair. Large fleets, however, usually have their own PM and repair facilities and technicians.

Utility companies (such as electric, telephone, or cable TV), car rental companies, overnight delivery services, and taxicab companies are good examples of businesses that usually have their own service departments. These companies normally purchase their vehicles from one manufacturer. Technicians who work on these fleets have the same opportunities and benefits as technicians in a dealership. In fact, the technicians of some large fleets are authorized to do warranty work for the manufacturer. Many good career opportunities are available in this segment of the auto service industry.

++ Specialty technicians work on only one vehicle system, such as brakes.

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