G. Mark’s Answer
Interesting story. (Isn't it great that I've prepared you by not saying, "Boring story. Stop reading here." ) But I digress. I was at a party and I happened to be talking to a guy who told me he worked on the Space Shuttle. I was intrigued, of course. I said, "It must be pretty daunting to know you're designing something that will be subjected to the stress of being in outer space!" He told me, "Not really. The real challenge is designing a family car." HUH? "The Shuttle doesn't sit in all sorts of bad weather, it doesn't get pushed through roads full of soot and salt. It doesn't sit in a driveway without being serviced for days or even months at a time. The astronauts don't leave ice cream on the seats or unbuckle their seat belts and stick their head out the windows. And when we pull the shuttle into the hangar, the astronauts aren't trying to get us to fix it with cheaper parts or to get it to fly just "one more time" without putting a lot of money into it.
So what's the challenging part of being an automotive engineer? Pretty much all of it. The idea that you're dealing with customers whose requirements span a huge variety of situations, who will subject your product to immense stress, who often have no time whatsoever to figure out how they might be abusing your product beyond its intended application. And all the while you're competing with dozens of other companies who are trying like heck to beat you at your game. And that's the thrill of it all. You'll most likely succeed against those incredible odds. Even if your product doesn't ever leave earth's atmosphere.