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The Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association is honored to announce the formation of a hall of fame to recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding contributions to advance the automotive industry in Tennessee. The TAMA Hall of Fame reflects the prominence of automotive manufacturing in Tennessee's economy.


Phil Bredesen

The 48th Governor of Tennessee, Bredesen helped attract the $1 billion Volkswagen plant to Chattanooga. That plant now employs 3,200 people and awards $307 million local and Tennessean car supply contracts each year. Bredesen also served as Mayor of Nashville prior to his stint as Tennessee's governor.

Ronald Graves

The Director of the Sustainable Transportation Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Graves' expertise within the automotive sector includes Carbon Fiber, Internal Combustion Engines, Fuels and Power Electronic Systems & Materials. His work affects millions of vehicles that are on the road today.

2015 TAMA Hall of Fame inductees Phil Bredesen (left) and Ronald Graves (right) pose with TAMA President Rick Youngblood.


Marvin T. Runyon

1924 - 2004

Former CEO of Nissan North America, Runyon supervised construction of major Nissan assembly and engine plants, which opened in Smyrna in 1981. Nissan's light truck manufacturing facility was, at the time, the largest auto manufacturing investment in the state and served as a catalyst for the industry in Tennessee. 





Skip LeFauve

1934 - 2003

The veteran General Motors executive was named president of Saturn Corporation in 1986 with the assignment of developing an assembly plant in Spring Hill. Saturn - "a different kind of car company" - rolled out its first cars in 1990 and went on to become one of the most innovative automobile companies of its time, and LeFauve became identified with the management and technology successes at Spring Hill. 






U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

As Tennessee governor from 1979-87, Alexander recruited Nissan and General Motors to establish major auto manufacturing and assembly plants in the state and set the foundation for future auto industry growth through state-led economic development initiatives. Today automotive manufacturing is one of Tennessee's leading industries. 









Nissan Assembly Plant, Smyrna, TN


Gov. Lamar Alexander, Nissan President Takashi Ishihara, and Nissan USA President Marvin Runyon



Gov. Lamar Alexander at the Saturn site dedication in Spring Hill, TN


Gov. Lamar Alexander and Skip LeFauve, Saturn President, at the Haynes Haven home, Spring Hill


Gov. Lamar Alexander and Marvin Runyon, Nissan USA


Gov. Lamar Alexander and Speaker Ned Ray McWherter at the Nissan Assembly Plant in Smyrna


Skip LeFauve, and Mike Bennett, Shop Chairman for UAW on the cover of MIT Management.


Nissan Assembly Plant, Smyrna


Skip LeFauve at the Topping Out Ceremony, Powertrain building, Saturn, Spring Hill




Detailed Biographies:

Marvin T. Runyon

Marvin Runyon was raised in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and started working for Ford at its Dallas Assembly Plant in 1943, where his father also worked. After graduation from Texas A&M University, Runyon worked at Ford plants in Atlanta, and in Loran, OH in the 1950s. He served as a plant manager in the 1960s and in the 1970s became an executive at major operations in charge of powertrain and chassis operations. 

In 1981, Mr. Runyon was named chief executive of Nissan North America and supervised construction of Nissan's Smyrna assembly and engine plants. The plant Mr. Runyon's team built rolled out its first trucks in June 1983 and it now makes more then 500,000 cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles a year.

When Mr. Runyon, a 37-year Ford veteran, was asked by the New York Time's for an article on the auto industry revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s about his new job as head of a Japanese car maker in Tennessee, he said he Detroit colleagues "wish[ed] me luck, but not too much."

After Nissan, he went on to lead, with great success, the Tennessee Valley Authority and United States Postal Service. 

Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan Americas, said about Mr. Runyon, "...[he] had an extraordinary career path, but to those in the automotive industry, he will always be revered as an innovator and a pioneer."

Mr. Runyon died in May of 2004. His widow, Sue Atkinson, was highly involved with TAMA and played a strong role in the success of this organization through the years. 


Skip LeFauve

Skip LeFauve was a native of Orchard Park, NY and began his career in 1956 as an engineer with Packard Electric Division in Warren, OH. He took a break to serve as a naval aviator and returned to a series of executive positions in General Motor's Packard, Diesel Equipment, Chevrolet and Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac divisions. 

He was named president of Saturn Corporation in 1986 and GM's senior vice president for global leadership development in 1997. He is best know, of course, as "Mr. Saturn," and credited with the managerial and technology innovations that made Saturn, as it was known publicly, as "a different kind of car company."

Ken Knight, complex manager of GM Spring Hill Manufacturing, says of LeFauve, "his legacy goes beyond the Saturn Corporation and extends into all of General Motors though his role as senior vice president for global leadership development. Today, employees throughout the company benefit from programs at GM Learning, which he founded, incorporating key lessons learned through the Saturn University." 

LeFauve was a very quiet spoken, unassuming person with tremendous leadership talent. He was quoted as saying, on multiple occasions, "conflict is a positive constant at Saturn. Instead of conflict that becomes an excuse for not getting things done, we managed conflict to catalyze change." 

Saturn certainly changed the industry and a great amount of the credit goes to Skip LeFauve. He retired in 1999 after a 41-year career at GM. Mr. LeFauve died in January 2003. 


United States Senator Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander is a native Tennessean, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and New York University School of Law, who served as governor of our state from 1979 - 1987. In his first year in office, Governor Alexander prioritized economic development and generating investment as a key to creating jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs, in Tennessee. 

Governor Alexander spent a lot of time in Japan that first year trying to persuade Nissan's leadership on the advantages of being located in Tennessee. He did a pretty good job. In 1980, Nissan announced plans to invest $300 million and locate an assembly and engine plant in Smyrna. 

Two years after Nissan rolled out its first cars in 1983, General Motors announced its desire to construct a new plant to build its Saturn vehicle line. Dozens of states competed for the opportunity but Governor Alexander convinced the GM leadership that is could compete head-to-head with a Japanese counterpart by locating less than 50 miles away. Construction on the Saturn operation began in Spring Hill in 1986, and the facility rolled out the first Saturn automobiles in 1990. 

The same New York Times article that quoted Runyon stated, "the dairy farms that once draped the countryside here were paved over so the Japanese carmaker Nissan could build its first American assembly plant. Eighty miles to the south, another green pasture was replaced by a Nissan engine factory, and across Tennessee about 100 Nissan suppliers dot the landscape, making steel in Murfreesboro, air conditioning units in Lewisburg, transmission parts in Portland. Three decades ago, none of this existed." 

Today, automotive manufacturing is one of the state's largest and more powerful industries. In 2008, with Senator Alexander playing a key role, along with Governor Bredesen, the Chattanooga mayors and Senator Corker, Volkswagen became Tennessee's third OEM. Now we have more than 900 automotive manufacturers and supply companies. The auto sector employs just under 110,000 people and has an annual payroll of more than $6 billion. More than one-third of all manufacturing jobs in Tennessee support the automotive industry. 

Very simply, in the view of TAMA, Tennessee's auto manufacturing would not exist on the scale that is does today without the vision and extraordinary leadership of Lamar Alexander.