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Interview with Romain Nicolas from Car-Engineer.com

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Romain Nicolas is one of the founders of Car-Engineer.com, an automotive website with news and information for everyone with a passion for the automotive field.Car-Engineer contains news and featured articles sourced directly from the automotive industry, academics, and laboratories. It is a completely free website which favors interactivity with the reader through possibility to comment or to post articles.

You and your co-founder, Charlie Constant have very involved automotive careers. When did you first know that you wanted to work with cars for a living?

I have always been fascinated by transportation means, whether it was a plane or a car. The advanced technologies these are using are made available to everyone and I have always wanted to know more what’s behind the steering wheel. So at the end of my high school I looked for universities dedicated to these, to get myself specialized.

Tell us a little about your current careers and how you were able to get the position.

I’m currently working as a System Engineer in the Volvo group (the truck manufacturer, not the car one). In this position, I’m basically designing, specifying and analyzing the functions of the starting system of the engines. I got this position 3 years ago thanks to an apprenticeship I led jointly with the IFP School MSC in Paris. The apprenticeship allowed me to work within the Volvo group while finishing my education which was really hands-on experience for me.

What was the best thing you got to do as a professional automotive engineer?

1 year ago, we introduced a new engine in production, and at the end of the line an issue happened with the first start of the combustion engines. The production line was fully stopped because of the starting system I’m responsible for. So we initiated a task force on the morning with a bunch of experts to solve the issue as there was a lot of pressure to release the engines and deliver them to the customers. We spent 6 hours without any break or lunch on the issue, trying to debug, looking for root causes, doing some tests… When we finally found the issue and implemented the correction in the central system, the line could start again and we got hearty applause from the production line workers. We felt accomplished and proud to have solved this critical issue in a short time. The team work was very motivating and we felt rewarded by the applause of the workers

What is something that you did not know about before you actually started working in the automotive industry? 

Definitely the complexity of the processes and standards to comply with. A car or truck is very much constrained and regulated by laws and governments and it is amazing to the see the challenges that engineers meet when designing a car that is both satisfying these standards and final customers expectations.

What are some things that you had to learn at your jobs or use every day that you wish were taught at your university?

At university, we don’t often learn to make trade-offs. The problems given there are often mono-dimensional, and do not consider configuration management, cost or manufacturing constraints. These constraints are everyday business when working in an automotive company and we should be aware of them as soon as studying at university.

What led you to start Car-Engineer.com?

Charlie and I wanted to create something and share our passion for automobiles. Creating a business was too risky as we were young and had a small network. So we estimated that an editorial website would represent a low investment with a high added value in terms of technology benchmark, network and website design and marketing. So, we started to create the website early in 2012, learning on our way, finding sources for our articles, managing the Search Engine Optimization and the press relationships, and finally launching it on the web in December 2012. The passion we have for automotive has driven all the free time we have spent on the website and is still here to keep updating the website and further share our knowledge.

Do you have any advice for engineering students or entry level engineers that are looking to get into automotive engineering?

You need to make internships, to build your Resume/CV, getting experiences in automotive companies. The network is really important too as the automotive world is quite small. You need to give the best to be renowned as a pro-active and skilled engineer, which will make you hireable by the best automotive companies.

I gotta ask, Favorite Car?

The BMW i8 is my best car of the moment due to its technology content (Carbon fiber, Hybrid powertrain, Laser lights …). Otherwise, I will always be amazed by the capacity of Dodge and Chrysler group to sell a Challenger Hellcat of 707 hp. at a price of 62000 USD when an Audi R8 costs double.

Special Thanks to Romain for answering all our questions. If you want to learn about all the news and technology related to automotive engineering, go check out his website at www.car-engineer.com.

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