Jack Phillips is about to drive into new territory.
Phillips is retiring as president of Yorozu Automotive Tennessee, a position that has seen him oversee the plant in Morrison for the past 15 years. His retirement is effective July 1.
“The last couple of years I’ve talked to a few members of Yorozu’s board of directors about the possibility of me retiring and discussed succession plans,” said Phillips, who has been with Yorozu for 22 years. “I’m honored Yorozu extended the position to me and gave me this opportunity. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, but now it’s time for me to do something else.”
A Warren County native, Phillips got his start at Yorozu in 1997 as purchasing manager. He worked his way up the management ladder and was promoted to senior manager and then vice president of operations. In 2004, he was promoted to president.
During his tenure, Yorozu had to idle plants in Mississippi and Michigan during the Great Recession when automotive sales stalled. That created a logjam at the Warren County plant, which saw its workforce swell to more than 2,000 employees at its peak.
To help with local overcrowding, Yorozu recently opened a plant in Alabama which has allowed the Warren County workforce to settle around 1,000. Phillips believes local employment will remain stable at 1,000 for the foreseeable future.
Asked about managing 2,000 people, Phillips said, “It’s a stressful position, but I’ve been fortunate to have really good managers in each department and that’s been a big help.”
The job has required regular trips to Japan. For over a decade, Phillips would make seven trips to Japan a year. Thanks to the use of video conferencing in recent years, Phillips said his trips to Asia have been reduced to about two a year.
So how well does he speak Japanese?
“Not at all,” said Phillips. “Fortunately, most of the executives speak very good English.”
Yorozu manufactures primarily suspension products for the automotive industry with Nissan, Honda and Toyota being its top three customers in that order.
While his retirement date is July 1, Phillips says he will be available after that to help in the transition process if needed. His future plans are to teach supply chain and economics courses at Motlow College.
As for his replacement, Mr. Tanaka will assume duties as president. He has been second in charge as vice president of operations at Yorozu since 2016.