The battle to build autonomous cars is turning into a talent war in which skilled engineers are the prize.
Ford is at the core of promptly hiring talented and skilled engineers pitting traditional car makers against startups out to force a shift to electric and autonomous-driving vehicles. As they fight for skilled workers, the demand for people who know how to design or build a car has increased, putting automakers behind the eight ball.
“Across the auto-engineering spectrum right now, there is a bit of war for talent,” said Ford product development chief Raj Nair. Ford said its voluntary workforce departures overall were less than 1.9% last year. But says Mr. Nair: “right now, where we’d like to be in hiring for our growth this year, we’re behind our curve.”
Bibhrajit Halder left the Midwest and a job developing autonomous trucks for Caterpillar Inc. about a year and a half ago to join Ford Motor Co. in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the automaker is working on self-driving vehicles.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker, however, soon lost the software engineer to Faraday Future Inc., an electric-car startup attracting auto industry talented engineers with Silicon Valley-like perks such as stock options, catered lunches free health care, and foosball tables.
“The work is exciting,” Mr. Halder said in an interview about six months after joining Faraday, where he says he has more responsibility than at the blue-chip companies he left. “The company is dependent on you to deliver.”
Ford and other car makers are reacting to the poaching by building strong ties with universities, setting up offices in Silicon Valley and buying startups. General Motors Co. recently acquired Sidecar Technologies by paying more than $1 billion for autonomous-driving company Cruise Automation. Sidecar Technologies was a 20-person team that was working on ride-hailing services.
Toyota Motor Corp. has planned to build a new $1 billion artificial-intelligence center and has therefore hired a 16-member staff at Jaybird Robotics Inc, an autonomous vehicle startup that emerged out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, Startup Faraday Future has employed around 1,100 employees in the last two years and plans to close almost 550 open positions by the end of 2016. Apple Inc., making its own electric car, hired auto-industry veteran Doug Betts last year. Mr. Betts built the reputation as a manufacturing guru over a career spanning nearly two decades at top car makers.