Drive! Moving Tennessee’s Automotive Sector Up the Value Chain

This report finds that the auto industry plays a critical role in the Tennessee economy and explores the new competitive environment that will challenge the state going forward.


Advanced industries (AIs) like the auto sector—with its significant R&D investment and STEM-worker intensity—are important because they drive regional and national prosperity in the United States. For its part, Tennessee’s auto industry has led the state’s post-recession recovery and has managed to increase its share of North American motor vehicle manufacturing employment since the Recession.


The geography of North American auto industry employment has experienced sizable shifts over the past two decades:


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However, with fundamental changes in the global auto industry ratcheting up competitive pressures, Tennessee will need to find new ways to compete in the years ahead. Most notably, the state like other locations will need to complement its traditional costs advantages with a new focus on workforce quality and technology development.



Drive! offers three major findings about the Tennessee auto sector:



    • Following a tumultuous decade, Tennessee’s auto sector retains significant momentum



    • However, disruptive forces in the global auto industry pose competitive challenges for the Tennessee sector



    • In the context of this new competitive environment, Tennessee industry and government should collaborate to expand and enhance the auto sector


This report is part of our new

Advanced Industries Series