Timothy D’Herde, 41
Head of powertrain 2 & fuel cell business R&D, Toyota Europe
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
When I turned 18 and passed my driving test, I started a job as a limousine driver. I really enjoyed shuttling people to important events in their lives. I wanted to give customers the best experience, not only a safe and smooth journey but also to bring smiles to their faces. It didn't feel like work, especially since my 18-year-old self got to drive Ferraris, Porsches and other high-end cars. This job, along with my love of anything automotive, provided the foundation for my career in this industry.
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement has been the building of a highly capable, competent and exceptionally motivated team. The team takes on an important role in the development of Toyota's multi-technology powertrain approach. On a personal note, raising a family with three young and energetic kids is challenging, with my wife and I both working full time. We juggle a lot, but we make it work.
Born: Ghent, Belgium
Languages: Dutch, English, French
Education: Master's degree in automotive product engineering, Cranfield University, Bedford, England
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I don't really like the term failure. I see it more as challenges thrown our way that we can learn and grow from. As one example, at the beginning of my assignment in the UK engine manufacturing plant I realized I didn't provide enough positive reinforcement to the team. It wasn't a good idea to challenge and push a team that was already facing difficult targets. I learned the importance of motivating the team, thanking them personally for their achievements and contributions. I now know it's essential to give positive feedback. A motivated and committed team is the key to everyone's successful performance.
What is your current challenge at work?
We, in the automotive industry, currently face fierce winds of change when it comes to new ways of mobility. That's especially true for the powertrain field because of the move to enhanced electrification. My biggest challenge is to ensure we understand our customers' expectations so we can deliver them the right products. In addition, there are the challenges created by the pandemic, such as having to learn how to remain a close team despite only seeing each other virtually.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Our executive vice president for engineering once told us that creativity starts with a dream. With a dream, you create a vision. With a vision, you make a plan. With a plan, you pursue implementation. And with implementation you have success. So, with creativity you have success.
2021-present: Head of powertrain 2 & fuel cell business R&D, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2019-2020: General manager powertrain 2, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2017-2018: Toyota new global architecture management, Toyota Motor, Toyota City, Japan
2016-2017: Senior manager, Toyota UK, Deeside, Wales, United Kingdom
2014-2015: Senior manager, powertrain design and evaluation, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2005-2006: Development engineer, powertrain, Toyota Motor, Toyota City
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Go for a job that you are passionate and enthusiastic about. The auto industry is full of surprises and will never be boring because it continues to change. It will be challenging but also very rewarding. If you are ready to go beyond your limits, use your creativity and be part of the transformation to make mobility more sustainable, more inclusive as well as more connected, the auto industry is where you should be.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I want to be in a job that allows me to make a strong contribution toward creating mobility for all. I want to be able to adapt our products to customers' needs. In addition, I want to make sure driving is fun while offering mobility in a sustainable way without leaving a carbon footprint to help protect the next generations.
What do you do to relax?
I really enjoy driving. Not only the actual driving, but the process of getting the car ready. From considering car enhancing modifications to the final stages of giving it a good wash. All that really relaxes me. Because I often don't have time for all that, I'm also happy to go for a run.
What is your dream location to live?
I've been very fortunate to live in many exciting places. However, I've learned that it's not so much about where you live, it's about the people you share your life with. Filling my life with people who love, inspire and challenge me is my idea of a dream come true.
What is your favorite driving song?
I don't need music. The sound of the engine revving until it reaches the red line is the best song ever.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My favorite road trip is always the journey to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I've been there several times together with friends. The trip from Belgium to England is really nice because the UK is a great car country. As for the event itself, I really enjoy being together with car enthusiasts and like-minded people.
What was your first car?
I drove a Peugeot 306. To me it's still one of the best hot hatches of its era.
For daily driving, I have a Toyota Yaris GR-Four. It's a fantastic car and still makes me smile. My family car is a Lexus NX300h hybrid. Everyone loves the comfortable, quiet ride of this car.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Ferrari SF90 Stradale plug-in hybrid, which combines the beauty of having strong electric motors with a powerful combustion engine. The adaptability of this car's powertrain to go from silent, pure-electric driving to mind-blowing performance really reflects my character.