David Hermance was an extraordinary person. He was an outstanding engineer, an industrialist, an environmentalist, a visionary, and an articulate leader in an industry that often is misunderstood. Dave was passionately committed to making the world a better place, even if it meant running contrary to the prevailing conventional wisdom in the industry to which he devoted his entire career. Yet he was pragmatic and grounded in reality. He wanted to get things done—the right things—but he did not support actions based simply on ideology and wishful thinking, no matter how great the cause was.
Dave was a person of unfailing integrity and competence. He was molded by his engineering training and years of experience with General Motors and Toyota, working in emissions control and propulsion system development. In the end, because of his passion, commitment, and drive, it was Dave who was molding the people he interacted with and the industry he so obviously loved. He became an early supporter of hybrid vehicle technology both inside and outside Toyota. He believed that the creative and enlightened application of advanced technology could break down the tradeoffs imposed by conventional vehicle design, and could address the global challenges of energy security and environmental calamity.
Dave was quick to realize that giving engineers working on hybrids a bit more design freedom, old paradigms of what vehicles could accomplish could be swept away. In their place, a new generation of vehicles could emerge that would deliver improved fuel economy, performance, and extremely low emissions—all at once.
As Toyota introduced modern hybrid technology, Dave was on the front lines, explaining and promoting it to all kinds of people, from regulators to media to consumers. One of Dave’s most impressive abilities was his ability to talk at the right level to any audience. He clearly saw the big picture, but he also understood the particulars that made the technology work. He had a knack for sharing that knowledge at the level most appropriate for his audience. He was so good at explaining both the broad principles and the engineering details that Dave transcended his position representing one company to that of becoming a spokesperson for those in the car business that sought to solve the pressing environmental and energy issues of our time. He was widely respected and appreciated by both his colleagues and competitors, along with regulators at the state and federal level with whom he interacted as part of his job.
Dave supported appropriate regulation to address the problems caused by the role of vehicles in our increasingly complex world, but he adamantly opposed efforts to mandate technology prior to its time and force products into the marketplace before they were ready. He realized the huge risks facing vehicle manufacturers from prematurely introducing technology ahead of when it was reliable and cost-effective enough to stand on its own, and he eloquently explained this business reality to anyone who would listen.
Dave was also a pilot. His love of flying was the perfect antidote for the frustrations of working in a large organization and dealing with multiple levels of government bureaucracy. It was ultimately this love that snatched him from us in an accident that snuffed out his brilliance and deprived his family, his colleagues, and his country of one of the most talented automotive engineers of his generation. His untimely departure from our midst still evokes sorrow and grief in us today. One way we seek to fill the empty space that Dave’s departure left in this world is to establish this award as a tribute to his memory. We trust that its recipients will comprehend how honored they are to receive it. If the excellence of the cars they create can match the greatness of our beloved departed friend, Dave’s legacy will be fulfilled and the world will truly be a better place.