David W. Hermance `70
Jun 6, 2008
Executive Engineer for Advanced Technology Vehicles Toyota Technical Center, Gardena, California
Executive Engineer for Advanced Technology Vehicles at Toyota Technical Center, Gardena, California
Honorary Doctor of Engineering
David W. Hermance, a member of the Kettering/GMI Class of 1970, was considered by many as the country’s hybrid engineering ambassador. He was a natural-born educator and had a real knack for explaining gasoline-electric cars and their electric-drive technologies. Mr. Hermance was becoming the most authoritative voice on hybrid-power vehicles in the United States when he died in a small plane crash in 2006.
He was remembered with a multitude of accolades after his untimely death. His long-time employer, Toyota, considered him the “American father of the Prius, the best-selling gas-electric hybrid vehicle … he dedicated his life to promoting electric-drive technology.”
The Los Angeles Times called Mr. Hermance “an engineering wizard for Toyota with an environmentalist’s heart -- an executive who championed hybrid gasoline-electric cars years before global warming entered the popular conversation.”
AutoWeek wrote: “Apart from getting the public to accept the idea of hybrid cars, Hermance had the difficult task of explaining post-graduate physics and engineering concepts to powerful regulatory bureaucrats and lawmakers who usually didn’t have technical backgrounds. It was a process almost always a pleasure for both parties.”
Mr. Hermance was considered a gifted engineer and was highly respected by his peers in the automotive industry. He was born Sept. 27, 1947, in Danville, Indiana. He came to Kettering/GMI as a student in 1965, where his co-op job took him to General Motors’ Vehicle Emissions Laboratory. In 1970, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. He stayed with General Motors for 26 years, where he led durability test development and served in various roles in the Vehicle Emissions Laboratory.
In 1991, he joined Toyota as senior manager of Engine Evaluation and in 1992 was promoted to general manager of the Powertrain Department at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, California. There, he was responsible for engine and drivetrain calibrations for the North American market. From 2000 until 2006, he served as the executive engineer for Advanced Technology Vehicles at Toyota’s tech center.
He is credited with helping move the second-generation Prius – then Toyota's third-best-selling car - into the mainstream market. He worked with Toyota engineers in Japan to make the electric motor more powerful, boosting performance and increasing fuel economy.
As his career advanced, he discovered he had a remarkable ability to explain complex technologies with ease, whether he was speaking with scientists, regulators, environmentalists, the media or consumers. He worked tirelessly to promote hybrid and advanced technology vehicles all across North America and was respected for his communications skills that championed both the environment and hybrid engines, which are more fuel-efficient and have lower exhaust emissions. As a result, he earned the respect of the engineering community, policy makers and environmentalists.
Mr. Hermance died Nov. 25, 2006, when his single-engine stunt plane, a Russian-built Interavia E-3, crashed into the ocean during aerobatic maneuvers off the coast of San Pedro, near Los Angeles. An avid pilot, he learned to fly at age 14 with his flight-instructor father; he soloed at age 16 and earned his private pilot’s license during college. Mr. Hermance was 59 at the time of his death and was living in Huntington Beach, California, with his wife of 35 years, Mary.
One colleague, David Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, expressed his condolences this way: “He possessed deep knowledge, was highly articulate and a pleasure to work with in every respect. He was a terrific human being. He will be missed by all.”