James K. Ashford was president and chief executive officer of Tenneco’s parent company, JI Case Company. Ashford helped form Tenneco Automotive when he played a key role in acquiring Monroe Auto Equipment Co., the Michigan-based manufacturer of shock absorbers. He later expanded Speedy Muffler King and acquired Car-X, a Midwest-based muffler shop chain, which further strengthened Tenneco’s retail operations.
Ashford also positioned Tenneco Automotive to take a more active role in supplying original equipment manufacturers. He conceived of “focus plants” which provide exhaust systems to individual original-equipment manufacturers on a just-in-time basis.