Auto Industry Slump Rains on Design Dreams

The seniors in vehicle design at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, one of the world’s top transportation-design schools were expecting to meet car-company recruiters on the eve of their design exhibit.

Few were at attendance to the event.

It was the same night that the Senate killed legislation to bail out U.S. automakers.

Julius Bernardo, 27, who spent about $100,000 on his college education, and has dreamed of designing flashy cars since childhood said, "Normally there are a lot of designers from the big companies, but with all that's going on, nobody is coming, at this point in time, you have to start thinking about other kinds of jobs."

With the industry suffering its worst sales decline in twenty-five years, carmakers are cutting costs drastically, which includes recruitment. On top of layoffs in manufacturing, pay cuts in upper management and pulling out of auto shows, product planning and design have taken a huge hit.

Ford has shelved plans for new truck designs. GM has cut its R&D budget and will cut eight models from its product line by 2012. Chrysler shrunk its design staff to 15 from about 75 in the past year.

Even if designers are only a tiny fraction of the employees in the auto industry, their value is immeasurable; without good design, cars won’t sell. A car maker without good designers has no future.

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