Nissan Decherd celebrates 25 years of people, passion and powertrains
Decherd, Tennessee, isn't a city you're bound to stumble upon; but, if you do, it is hard to forget its charm. Hidden 90 miles south of Music City, Decherd is home to Nissan's U.S. powertrain operations, and it's a community full of heart.
In the midst of farm fields that go on for miles, Decherd became Nissan's U.S. center for advanced engines and eMotors, powering the all-electric Nissan LEAF, best-selling Rogue, rugged Frontier, family-friendly INFINITI QX60 and more.
Decherd's powertrains may be the heart of Nissan and INFINITI products across America. But the operations are powered by the people of Middle Tennessee – more than 2,000 team members who have proudly engineered and manufactured nearly 16 million engines and eMotors. Members like Tony Patterson, a 20-year employee who came to Nissan right at the cusp of the company's transformation, have helped pave the way for just one of many multigenerational Nissan Decherd stories.
Building engines by day, farming by night
Drawn to Nissan Decherd for its culture, people and job opportunities, Tony first joined Nissan in machining quality, while also studying to earn his engineering degree. Since then, his father and two sons have also found a work home at Nissan Decherd.
Don Patterson, Tony's father, hired into Nissan as a technician on the line and continued his career as a quality supervisor until his recent retirement in 2021. While they became passionate about powertrains, the Patterson family has another passion – one they weren't willing to give up – farming.
Tony worked during the week, and Don took care of the family farms – a local business with beef cattle serving Middle Tennessee counties. They swapped roles over the weekend, with Don supporting powertrain assembly and Tony tending to the land.
"Farming pushes you to think on your feet, troubleshoot to identify the issue and create a solution quickly," said Tony Patterson. "The same can be said about powertrain engineering and manufacturing. In the same way that we may have to figure out machining to bail hay before it rains, we also have to determine why a particular piece of equipment isn't building the parts we need to meet production schedules."
The Patterson family put their farming skills to work. They were part of – and even helped lead – many company milestones that make Nissan Decherd what it is today. In 2007, Nissan created in-house casting and forging operations – making it the first full-service engine assembly plant in North America. Tony led quality for both, ensuring the launches were successful. In 2013, a new kind of powertrain made its way to Decherd. The team stepped into the future with the start of eMotor assembly, powering the first all-electric, mass-market EV, the Nissan LEAF.
The excitement was contagious. In 2018, two great moments mark Nissan Decherd's history. Tony Patterson II joined Nissan as a new-model-machining engineer in the midst of a major assembly launch for the plant. Jake Patterson, Tony's youngest son, spent the summer of 2019 as an assembly engineer.
One year later, Don, Tony and Tony II said goodbye to Decherd's original assembly line and welcomed the most intricate and technologically advanced line to date – producing VC-Turbo engines. The three and four-cylinder engines combine the power of a high-performance gas engine with the torque and efficiency of a diesel powertrain to deliver a thrilling drive experience.
Despite these revolutionary milestones, what resonates most for the Pattersons is the family memories they experienced with Nissan since 2002 – births, anniversaries, promotions, retirements and countless other life events.
"Nissan Decherd has a personal atmosphere – one that's hard to put into words," says Tony Patterson. "It makes coming to work easier when you get to do it with your family."
This sentiment is true on a larger scale. Powertrains and career opportunities bring teammates to Nissan Decherd, but it's the people, passion and culture that keep them there until retirement. What has set it apart for the last 25 years (and counting) is the power from inside.