In any story Jalopnik writes, the goal is to provide insight and entertainment. While you can’t really help us improve the latter, you can help with the former, especially if you’re an auto engineer. That’s because many stories in this field can benefit from some level of technical discussion, since cars are inherently technical. But including such a discussion in as many articles as possible is going to require strong sources with genuine automotive expertise. This is where you come in.
Often times, people ask me if I miss the world of engineering, and my answer is always “I miss certain parts of it.” The one part that I mention most frequently is access to true expertise. At Fiat Chrysler, if I wanted to know how the most complex part of an automatic transmission’s valve body worked, I could simply open up a window on my company’s internal chat messenger, type in a fellow FCA engineer’s name, and within moments, this world expert would answer my complex question with a simple, easily-digestible answer. And they would often do so with data and graphics and concrete real-world examples.
That was a beautiful thing, and I miss it. Nowadays, if I want answers to engineering questions and my network of engineering buddies can’t help, I often have to contact a PR representative, who will set up a meeting with an engineer who has almost certainly been prepped to stay “on message” throughout the conversation.
I found myself struggling with this issue recently at the Ford Mustang Mach-E debut. I asked engineers basic questions about the battery pack, only to be told something to the effect of “We’re not saying that.” (Note that the Mach-E’s chief engineer seemed a lot more chill). Not all companies are the same in this area. For example, Porsche and Volkswagen engineers working on the Taycan and MEB electric platform, respectively, seemed comfortable discussing any question I had about how their vehicles worked. You can see the difference in the companies’ approaches in my stories—my Taycan and MEB stories were much more thorough than my Mach-E technical breakdown).
This is not surprising, really. It makes sense that getting real answers to technical questions is a lot harder when you’re no longer on the inside. Still, going through PR is draining my soul (also it takes a long time), which is why I recently came up with an idea. Jalopnik has hundreds of readers who are engineers in the auto industry. Why not leverage that fact to better understand how some complex part of a vehicle (or bridge design or crash test or any technical area even remotely-related to cars) works, and then spread that knowledge to other readers in our writing?
Here’s what I’d like from any automotive engineer who’d like to be on my list of “engineering experts to reach out to when stuff gets confusing”:
Subject line: Automotive Engineer: [Area of expertise]
Body: Tell me what you do, how much experience you have in that area, whom you work for (if you’re comfortable with that) or have worked for in the past, and feel free to mention any cool stuff you might think Jalopnik readers would like to know about.
I’m happy to keep you all perfectly anonymous, by the way, even though I’m not asking for proprietary info (I just want to learn how general systems/components work). The point is that, if we, Jalopnik, come across some article where some website is claiming that warming up your car is dumb, it’s nice to be able to talk with an engine expert to cut through the crap and just get some real insight into all the factors in play.
(Also, I’m just a dork who’s always trying to gain a deeper understanding of cars. Plus, I like talking with enginerds).