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Gilbert Passin: oration

Read Professor JG Hawley's oration on Gilbert Passin for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in December 2015.


Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Gilbert Passin, engineer, innovator and entrepreneur.

Gilbert is recognised as one of the world leading experts in automotive manufacturing, particularly in relation to electric emerging technologies.

Gilbert’s career, immediately post-University, saw him join the staff of the Department of Mechanical Engineering here at the University of Bath between 1984 and 1986. He was a teaching fellow specialising in dynamics and 3D mechanics. In this role he was engaged with the establishment of the European Engineering degree programme, advising, developing and teaching the required language modules to support students in engineering exchanges in France.

From Bath, Gilbert moved into industry and began a highly successful and distinguished career spanning 29 years in developing some of the most innovative automotive manufacturing plants in the world.

Prior to joining Tesla, Gilbert led some of the most high-profile divisions at Toyota, Volvo, Mack and projects at Renault across North America and Europe. He served as General Manager of production engineering for Toyota in North America and Chief Production Engineer for the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Tacoma in North America. Toyota’s manufacturing production process continues to be regarded as one of the most efficient in automotive assembly.

Previously, Gilbert was Vice President of manufacturing at Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario. The award-winning plant produces over 400,000 automobiles per year and is the first Toyota site to produce a Lexus vehicle outside of Japan. It has won accolades and is considered one of 'Canada's Top 100 Employers'. Gilbert was instrumental in the manufacturing, planning and launch of the best-selling Lexus Sports Utility Vehicles. He also launched the manufacturing of the award-winning tenth generation Corolla, one of the most popular cars worldwide.

Prior to joining Toyota as Vice President and General Manager of the Volvo facility, he successfully consolidated the production of Volvo and Mack trucks while increasing the production rate and improving quality and productivity.

In 2010, all of this experience in the traditional automotive sector made Gilbert the ideal addition to Tesla, which is one of the most innovative and fastest growing automotive companies in the world. Based in California, and the brainchild of Elon Musk - the billionaire founder of PayPal and technical entrepreneur - they are the first company to focus on producing entirely electric vehicles, creating new battery and energy technology to offer record-breaking performance and range. Their Model S car, launched under the supervision of Gilbert, has won numerous international awards including Time Magazine Best 25 Inventions of the Year 2012 award, 2013 World Green Car of the Year, and Automobile Magazine's 2013 Car of the Year.

He joined Tesla when they did not even have a vehicle manufacturing team nor a factory. He spearheaded the staffing and forming of the entire vehicle manufacturing organisation; starting from just prototype vehicles to 500 cars produced a week in less than two years. Now Tesla is producing 1400 cars per week, with plans for further expansion, thanks to Gilbert’s leadership of their production operations.

Tesla has a growing presence in Europe, with Gilbert having been appointed to take executive lead for European Operations and is recognised as a truly innovative engineering company, with a global reputation for pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Gilbert has played a vital role in making Tesla the credible car manufacturer it is today. Without him the ground-breaking cars would not have made it into sustainable production.

Chancellor, I present to you Gilbert Passin, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

Professor JG Hawley

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