Toyota's top Prius executive dies in plane crash

David Hermance was credited with overseeing the successful development and launch of the hybrid car.


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Toyota executive who oversaw the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid car program died in a plane crash Saturday off the coast of California.

David W. Hermance, 59, died when the engine of his small plane evidently stopped working and he crashed into the sea off the coast of California, according to an eyewitness in a statement from Toyota.

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Dave Hermance, Executive Engineer for Advanced Technology Vehicles for Toyota, died Saturday, age 59.

Hermance was flying in his aerobatic Russian Yak airplane.

Gas-electric vehicles have grown in popularity in recent years as gas prices surged and concerns about global climate change have become more central to consumers.

Toyota's (Charts) Prius was the market leader, forcing rival car companies such as Ford (Charts), GM (Charts) and DaimlerChrysler (Charts) to play catch-up.

Hermance was considered the top American executive for alternative fuel vehicles, Automotive News reported.

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