‘Fibber Phil’ Bredesen Misleads on Nissan and Volkswagen Production in Tennessee

‘Fibber Phil’ Bredesen, the U.S. Senate Democrat candidate takes credit bringing Nissan and Volkswagen to Tennessee in his ad Matters and then uses these references to talk about his record creating jobs in the state when he was governor:

As governor I worked with Democrats and Republicans to bring Volkswagen and the Nissan headquarters to Tennessee

The same claims are posted on Bredesen’s campaign website.

Watch the ad:

The problem with Bredesen’s version of the facts, which deliberately mislead voters, is it omist material facts which if known, diminish greatly Bredesen’s claimed accomplishments.

The Nissan Corporation’s relationship with Tennessee actually began during the early part of Lamar Alexander’s first term as governor.

Lamar took the governor’s office in 1979, and two years later, Nissan was breaking ground to build its first plant outside of Japan, in Smyrna, earning Lamar recognition from The Tennessee Automotive Manufacturing Association (TAMA) in their ‘Hall of Fame’:

During his time as governor of Tennessee (1979-87), Lamar 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.

In 1981, the New York Times reported about Nissan’s decision to locate in Tennessee, referencing the absence of a unionized but capable and available work force, the accessibility for shipping, and a building site which topographically was desirable, helped Tennessee beat out 38 other states for the plant:

But the Nissan plant will be the largest single investment in the United States by a foreign automobile or truck manufacturer. It is the largest investment by private enterprise ever made in Tennessee. The company has already expanded the planned scope of the plant, raising its cost from $300 million to $500 million and its capacity from 10,000 units to 15,000 units a month.

The State of Tennessee put its skin in the game and committed to spend $40 million dollars to develop the needed road infrastructure.

Don Sundquist was governor during several expansions of Nissan’s operations in Tennessee. In 1997, Nissan opened its Decherd, Tennessee plant which assembles car engines and three years later, in 2000, committed to a four-year $1 billion dollar investment in this plant along with an expansion of the Smyrna operation.

And close to the end of Sundquist’s last term in 2002, his administration committed between $9 – 11 million dollars to develop the Enterprise South Industrial Park in Chattanooga:

“Building upon and promoting existing resources is key to economic development,” said Gov. Sundquist. “Through preparation and planning for the Enterprise South Industrial Park, city, county and state leaders are laying the groundwork to ensure this region’s future economic success.”

With the Enterprise South infrastructure in place, Volkswagen had a desirable location meeting many of the same criteria voiced by Nissan, at which to build its Tennessee plant.

So it is true that Bredesen was governor and helped recruit Volkswagen to Tennessee. And for his part having “helped attract” Volkswagen to build its plant at the Enterprise South sight, he was also inducted into the TAMA Hall of Fame.

Bredesen talks very carefully and specifically that his involvement with Nissan was limited to the company’s decision to move its North American headquarters to Tennessee, a distinction lost on most listeners. Without the background of how and when the manufacturing jobs that now sustain more workers in the state arrived here, Bredesen’s statement makes it sound as if he was solely responsible for bringing the company to Tennessee.

Nissan’s decision to move its 1,300 employees from its headquarters in California to Tennessee was based on needing to cut costs due to the high cost of maintaining its HQ operations in California and to follow the almost 8,000 employees already working in Nissan’s Tennessee manufacturing operations.

At the time of Nissan’s decision to relocate their HQ, the company was almost six years into recovering from a near “collapse.” It was simply less expensive for Nissan to conduct its business in a state like Tennessee that has no state income tax.

According to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, if Bredesen had had his way with taxes and fees, the lower cost of doing business in Tennessee, might not have been so attractive.

While serving in the Tennessee state legislature Marsha Blackburn was a vocal opponent to helped defeat the proposal for a state income tax. Blackburn is the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate seat which Bredesen hopes to flip to Chuck Schumer’s Democrats.


Chris Alto is an investigative reporter at The Tennessee Star

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