As time progresses, you'll need to research new sub-component designs to remain relevant in the automotive industry. The game handles with a system called Design Skills.
The game uses design skills in two ways. First, the system uses them to unlock new sub-component designs. Secondly, it acts as a rating bonus when designing new components or vehicles. Companies with higher design skills will unlock better components faster than the competition, and they'll produce better designs for less money than companies with worse design skills.
As your company gets better at designing a component category, its design skill will increase. Each sub-component has an unlock year and a design skill requirement. When the year and your skills are greater than the requirements, the sub-component will unlock. The design skill requirements for sub-component decrease every year as the technology becomes more commonplace. This is one of the most important features of the Design Skill system because most new sub-components give a slight competitive advantage over older styles.
Your current design skills and the requirements to unlock new sub-components can be found in the Researching Teams window of RnD.
We cover the left portion of the research teams in more detail on the Research Teams section of this page.
On the right side of the window are the research panels. These panels display information about upcoming research. Looking inside the panels, you'll find your current design skill and your quarterly design skill growth at the top (#4). Design skills grow based on the average overall ratings of your active designs and your research team budget.
The blueprint pictures show the designs you'll most likely unlock next. Just below each picture are two categories, “Skill” and “Year” (#5). These are the requirements you need to unlock these sub-components. If the category is green, you have met the requirement. If it is red, you have not.
An additional benefit of design skills is a small boost to corresponding specs and ratings for your component or vehicle design. The designer awards the bonus points at no additional slider position costs, making it a free improvement to your designs.
Check out the Game Mechanics chapter for how the game generates ratings and specs, and look for the design skills variables in those formulas.
Now that you know what design skills are for, how do you improve them?
The primary growth factor of design skills is designing designs. It is also the primary cause of design skill decline.
The game takes the average overall rating of your chassis, engine, and gearbox designs made in the last five years and compares them against your current design skills. If the average ratings of your design are greater than your skills, your skills will increase a limited amount. If your average ratings are less, your design skills will go down a limited amount.
The game uses the average overall, luxury, and safety ratings for their corresponding vehicle skills. It also looks at your designs over the last five years.
You do not need to use your design in a vehicle, nor do you need to sell them. However, you must complete the design process for the game to count them.
The game caps design skills to a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 100.
For a more detailed explanation of the formulas involved, see the Skills and Image page in the Game Mechanics manual.
In addition to your component designs, you can fund your engineers' education and curiosities with the Research Teams system.
Funding research teams grants you a bonus toward your design skill growth rate. The amount of bonus is linear to the amount of funding you're providing. Funding at the maximum levels provides enough of a bonus to cover the worst losses you can receive from poor designs.
You can access the system via the Research and Development room and by clicking the “Research Teams” button from the RnD top panel.
The left side of the window is your budgeting panel, and on the right side is your current ratings and rating growth (#4). The unlock requirements (#5) are also on the right side. We cover these in more detail above.
Adjust the sliders (#1) or enter the funding values into the text box (#2). When you're ready to set the values, click “Apply” (#6).
Every year, the maximum budget for research teams increases. To get the same bonus to design skill growth, you'll need to increase your budget by the same amount. The easiest way to do this is to set the “Lock Percentage” checkbox (#3) and then click “Apply” (#6).
Finally, your racing teams can also provide a small bonus to your design skill growth rates. This bonus is in direct relation to your team's focus settings (#4). The more your racing teams focus on development, the greater the design skill growth bonus.
See the Racing page for details on how to access the window with this setting.