Dream Job: BMW Test Driver

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A Career in High Gear

Hugging the curves of a winding country road, the James Bond roadster seems to float on air. A fork ahead. Which road to take? The driver chooses the one leading further away from the office. Will the boss mind this Tuesday afternoon excursion? Not at all.

The Road to BMW

People are always asking Jason, “How did you get a job test-driving $128,000 cars?” Hard work, determination, and a bit of good timing is the answer. Ten years ago the automotive technology trade school Jason attended had just started a relationship with BMW. Wanting to impress, the school sent BMW their top talent, including Jason.

The product development division ensures that new models of the German-designed cars are up to speed for the demands of the American consumer. The United States, after all, is a nation defined by its love for the automobile. “We’re supposed to be experts on what the U.S. customer will or will not accept,” says Jason.

No Spills Allowed

“We test the entire vehicle from front bumper to rear bumper,” says Jason. On tires he notes, “Our roads are usually more broken up than those in Europe.” And what about that morning cup of joe? Thank goodness Jason is looking out for caffeine-loving Americans. Unlike the Europeans, “U.S. customers want their cup holders,” he says.

Depending on Jason’s mission, an average test is 20 percent city/20 percent suburban/60 percent highway driving. Conclusions are made and a report is sent to Germany. Within weeks Jason gets to see the result of his work. “Our department has a direct influence on how the BMW products come to the United States,” he says proudly.

Who Wants to Drive a Million-Dollar Car?

Owners of the exotic McLaren do. The British-made sportscar has a BMW 630-horsepower V-12 engine that gets the McLaren from zero to 60 in three seconds, with a top speed of 240 mph. Jason is one of only two technicians authorized to service the eight McLarens in North America. “Most people never get to see or touch one,” says Jason. “I get to drive one.” And when he does, it is on a closed airport runway where he can go 150 mph.

Jason’s advice for those seeking their dream job? “I made a point of letting people know this was what I was interested in.” Jason adds, “If you sit still, it’s not going to come to you.”

So if you want to test-drive legendary cars, don some driving gloves and…dream on!

(But, like Jason, you’re going to have to get up from behind your desk.)

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