Top 7+ Best CAD Modelling Software for Automotive Applications (2023)

8 Mins read
  • April 2023 Update
CAD Modelling Software for Automotive Applications
CAD Modelling Software for Automotive Applications/Source: Autodesk

Have you ever wondered if there was an ideal CAD modelling software for automotive applications? If so, you’ve come to the right place. And even if you are not wondering about the question, it is always beneficial to be aware of the best CAD modelling software that can be used efficiently in automobile part design.

With the adoption of 3D printing in the automotive industry, new-age car design software has gained importance, and the demand for designers familiar with the additive manufacturing design principles is increasing. As a result, it is recommended that any designer aspiring to work in the automotive sector understand 3D printing technology, be trained in top car designing software, understand how it affects the industry, and know how to design digital automotive models.

There is not just one, but several cad software used in automotive industry that are ideal for product development. Check out our list of the top 7 CAD Modelling Software for Automotive Applications for users to consider for their design requirements.

CAD Modelling Software for Automotive Applications


Catia Automotive design and assembly
Catia Automotive design and assembly/Source: Dassault Systèmes’

Catia, a multi-platform software suite from Dassault Systèmes, is by far the best-in-class surface modelling software on the market. It was first released in 1982 as CAD software, but it has since evolved to do much more than just create models. It can now also perform computer-aided engineering (CAE). and even has one of the best product lifecycle management (PLM) suites in the industry.
This automotive CAD modelling software is primarily used for 3D surface and solid modelling, fluid and electronic system design, consumer electronics design, mechanical engineering, structural design, and 3D modelling for 3D printing.
It’s also commonly used for engineering models, and it offers a comprehensive solution for designing, shaping, and managing the integration of chassis and powertrains, Class A surfaces, and interior design into the automotive product lifecycle.

Catia is an expensive piece of software, with a perpetual licence costing more than $11,000 and an additional $2000 in annual maintenance fees. There are other options for purchasing the licence, such as annual and domain-specific versions.


Dassault Systèmes’ Solidworks is another solid modelling software. This software, which was first released in 1995, is now widely used in the automotive and transportation industries due to its versatile capabilities that meet industry standards. SolidWorks has an easier-to-use interface than Catia and can be used for design or mechanical part creation. Designs can be virtually validated quickly, reducing manufacturing time.

Fundamentally, Solidworks is a purely CAD modelling software unlike Catia which is much more diverse. However, Solidworks has an easier-to-use interface than Catia and can be used for design or mechanical part creation. Designs can be virtually validated quickly, reducing manufacturing time.

Solidworks CAD modelling software includes solutions for visualising, simulating, and developing electrical systems, as well as CAM and surfacing tools for creating a complete 3D CAD model for automotive applications.

Solidworks is less expensive than Catia, with a perpetual licence costing around $4000 but no upgrades. There are other options for purchasing the licence, such as annual and domain-specific versions.

Creo Parametric

Creo Parametric for car engine design and simulation
Creo Parametric for car engine design and simulation/Source: PTC Creo

PTC’s Creo Parametric, solid modelling software has been around since 1988. It has been a major and direct competitor to Solidworks. In fact, Solidworks was created as a competitor to Creo Parametric.

Creo is a popular CAD modelling software for automotive applications. The experienced professional who works with complex geometries and requires highly detailed simulations is Creo’s primary target user.

The software is primarily focused on pure solid modelling and is ideal for producing precise 3D models. It allows users to quickly simulate the entire manufacturing process in order to predict where errors and flaws may occur. This software allows for technical surfacing, 2D and 3D drawings, designs, and model assembly. Furthermore, this CAD software is extremely simple to use due to its user-friendly interface.

Users can purchase Creo in two types of licences based on the number of devices on which the software will be used. As a result, users can purchase either a locked licence (which can only be used on a single device) or a floating licence (can be used on multiple devices).

Autodesk Inventor

Inventor CAD modelling software is produced by the software behemoth Autodesk. It was released in 1999 as a direct competitor to Solidworks and offers similar parametric modelling capabilities. One of the key advantages of Inventor over Solidworks is that it provides much more stable performance even when working on heavy, complex, and large assemblies.

It has a high industry rating, so it has quickly become one of the top CAD modelling software for automotive applications. It is ideal for any mechanical design, but it is most commonly used in automotive component designs. Inventor includes a wide range of modelling options as well as powerful simulation tools.

Rokion, for example, uses Inventor to design heavy-duty electric vehicles for mining operations.

Inventor is a subscription-based product with three pricing options: $290 monthly, $2,300 annually, and $6,555 triennially.


Rhino is CAD modelling software created by Robert McNeel & Associates, a private American company. Engineers and 3D designers frequently use it as a professional tool.

NURBS curves, surfaces and solids, subdivision geometry (SubD), point clouds, and polygon meshes can all be created, edited, analysed, documented, rendered, animated, and translated in Rhino. There are no restrictions on complexity, degree, or size other than those imposed by your hardware.

Can be used effectively for automotive applications, in addition to many other applications. This software is based on nurbs curves and is relatively easy to use and learn. Even inexperienced designers will be able to create high-quality models that can be optimised for 3D printing.


Autodesk Alias Software
Autodesk Alias Software/Source: Autodesk

Alias is an Autodesk software used primarily in automotive and industrial design to generate Class A surfaces using the Bézier surface and NURBS modelling methods. There simply isn’t any other software that is capable of designing Class A surfaces. The Alias CAD software provides tools for industrial, automotive, and product design sketching, modelling, surface design, and visualisation.

It is CAD modelling software for automotive applications that is suitable for all types of design work. As a result, companies such as Tesla, Aston Martin, Lucid Motors, and others use Alias software for their automotive design needs.


Blender is a free and open-source 3D modelling application that assists users with modelling, texturing, rigging, animation, lighting, and other tasks. Ton Roosendaal, a Dutch software developer and film producer, created it in 1994 as in-house software for his animation studio. However, it has since evolved into a powerful software that can virtually model anything.

Blender is most commonly associated with character modelling, but it is also a capable programme that includes simulation tools as well as support for polygon meshes and nurbs.

Blender makes it easier to design complex geometries like a car. It has the potential to significantly reduce design time, allowing for faster design decisions. After making initial design decisions, engineers can rely on other design software such as Alias, etc. Tata Motors is one company that is known to use Blender for first-level car model design.

Additional Options

3Ds Max

Unlike the majority of other 3D modelling software applications, Autodesk 3Ds Max is an excellent choice for beginners. This software will teach you the fundamentals of surface modelling as well as advanced poly-modelling techniques to help you speed up the modelling process. It is ideal for automotive applications due to its ability to create realistic car designs.

The majority of professional designers use 3Ds Max to produce high-quality renderings. It also supports Virtual Reality, making it easier for design engineers to visualise models and create immersive and interactive architectural visualisations using Autodesk Stingray.


Designing an Open-Access F1 Car on the Cloud
Designing an Open-Access F1 Car on the Cloud/Source: OnShape

Onshape is a cloud-native product development platform that combines full-featured CAD, integrated PDM, and enterprise analytics in a single system, allowing your company to quickly, collaboratively, and securely create high-quality products.

The unique capabilities of OnShape make it a must-have tool in the arsenal of automotive manufacturers. Not only does the OnShape car design software help businesses complete tasks faster and communicate more effectively, but it also helps them modernise their product design process.

OnShape offers a range of integrations like:

  • CAD for Parts, Assemblies, Drawings, Configurations, etc.
  • Data Management for Product data management (PDM), Bill of Materials (BOMs), etc
  • Collaboration Tools for Real-time design review, Live chat and commenting, etc.
  • Security and Audit Controls for secure cloud platform, Two-factor authentication, etc.
  • Analytics and Reporting by project, user or document, Complete design history and change log, etc.
  • Integrations and Partners for Live business and engineering integrations for ERP, PLM, Single sign-on (SSO), Simulation, and CAM.

Design Studio in CAD Modelling

The evolution of CAD modelling has resulted in the establishment of specialised design studios dedicated solely to automotive applications. Vehicle design studios use advanced CAD tools to ensure precision and efficiency in the design process. These studios can create intricate 3D car models that are both visually appealing and functional by integrating automotive design software.

The best CAD platforms for the automotive industry include features tailored specifically to the needs of automotive designers, enabling seamless vehicle design applications. There are free CAD solutions for cars that offer a decent array of features for beginners for those on a tight budget. It is critical to select a CAD platform that is compatible with your design goals and level of expertise.

Industry Insights on CAD for Automotive

With the introduction of advanced CAD tools, the automotive industry has seen a significant shift in design methodologies. These tools have become industry standards, with major automobile manufacturers around the world using top-rated automotive CAD software. The ability to virtually visualise, test, and modify designs has transformed the way cars are designed and manufactured. As the industry evolves, the reliance on CAD tools for vehicles is expected to increase, making it critical for professionals in the field to stay up to date on the latest trends and technologies.


Prototyping is the most important and widely known application of 3D printing in the automotive industry. While companies are working to advance the technology, car manufacturers are currently exploring the technology at the prototyping scale to learn the technology better.

Limited-edition Vintage Car Parts

This is a very specific use case of 3D printing. Some companies, such as Mercedes-Benz, have cleared 3D printing for the printing of obsolete vintage car parts to service its loyal customers who still drive their classic cars. The company, a few years ago, cleared a new range of 3D printed replacement parts for maintaining its classic cars, such as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé, a few years ago (W 198 model series).

Series Production

Many automakers have recognised the potential of 3D printing in the manufacturing of automotive parts, and they are now optimising the technology to bring it to series production. BMW recently opened a dedicated facility to lead the adoption of AM in the automotive sector. This massive investment demonstrates how rapidly the use of AM is expanding in the automotive industry.

Customised Parts

3D printing allows users to create dimensionally accurate, aesthetically pleasing, and customised parts. This enables automakers to shorten lead times while also lowering production costs for low-volume requirements.

Companies such as Volkswagen and others are experimenting with one-of-a-kind designs, car interior components, and even critical metal parts such as tailgates, gear-shift knobs, and so on to be consistently 3D printed.


Now that you all know about the best software for car design, you have a list that will help you get started. By carefully understanding each of the software, its pros, and cons, you can effectively finalise which software you want to learn and professionally for your next automotive project.

You can also use multiple software for different projects as different software is suited for different models. This will give you greater flexibility and make you a better designer. Knowing the list of CAD modelling software for automotive applications is just the stepping stone to beginning your journey to automotive designing.

If you are interested in aerospace and aircrafts, then do check out our article on the best aircraft design software.

If you are interested in learning about the designing software for architecture applications, then do check out our article on the best art design software.

Interested in learning about reverse engineering, do check out our list of the top 8 best photogrammetry software.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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