Major German automakers planning big expansions but lack qualified people for the task.

They all have big plans - VW wants to be the world's biggest automaker by 2018, BMW is intent on making the i-sub brand a global leader in hybrid and electric vehicles, and Mercedes-Benz won't be left behind either.

But the German auto industry as a whole has a problem with these plans - they don't have enough engineers to carry them out.

Last month the German engineering association, VDI, pegged the shortage of available engineers at an all-time high of 77,000.

BMW is looking to hire around 800 workers for its Leipzig plant where the i3 and i8 will be built. The current global leader in premium brand sales believes it will grow sales to 2 million units a year by 2020 from today's 1.6 million.

Porsche being even more ambitious, as part of VW's 'take over the world' strategy. It wants to take deliveries to 200,000 units a year from half of that today and needs to hire around 3,000 people over the next 3 years, many of them engineers, to get that done.

"It's a very serious problem that could hold up research and development of new cars," says the head of the VDI, Willi Fuchs.

The shortage has made for rising salaries. Management-level engineers in the German auto industry today earn an average of just over €84,000, having risen 19 percent since 2006.

Automakers are also looking to recruit engineers from outside of Germany, particularly for production in China and other fast-growing markets.

"Manufacturers are now vying for talent from China, India and other growth markets," says Porsche's head of personnel, Thomas Edig. "We also want to recruit employees from China and India because we need their knowhow and understanding of their home markets."

Gallery: German auto industry faces shortage of engineers