Dennis Cuneo Bio

Dennis Cuneo Headshot

Dennis Cuneo

Dennis Cuneo is currently a management consultant and a partner in a national labor law firm. With a wide range of interests and expertise, he has built a successful career solving a variety of business challenges, with a focus on legal challenges, public policy, economic development, and human resources/labor relations. In addition to heading his own consulting firm, D.C. Strategic Advisors LLC, Dennis is a Regional Managing Partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP. He serves on the boards of two Fortune 500 companies, a privately held engineering and construction firm, an auto industry think tank, and academic institutions. He also serves as an advisor to several high tech companies. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President of Toyota Manufacturing North America playing a key role in the expansion of Toyota’s automotive manufacturing operations into North America.

Legal Background

After receiving a Juris Doctor from the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, where he graduated 4th in his class, Dennis was recruited as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Attorney General’s Honor Law Graduate Program. During his four years with the Department of Justice, he worked on cases involving the aluminum industry, the motion picture industry and food processing. He received a Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service from the Justice Department in 1979.

Dennis then moved to the private sector when he joined Arent Fox, a prominent Washington D.C, law firm, where he provided guidance to companies facing high profile legal and regulatory challenges. One of his clients was Toyota, which was in negotiations for a joint venture with General Motors to take over a former GM plant in Fremont, California. The joint venture drew heavy media coverage and scrutiny from Congress. The Federal Trade Commission conducted a 14 month investigation of the venture, which it described as “one of the most intensive, thorough antitrust reviews ever undertaken.” The venture drew high profile opposition from Ralph Nader, Robert Reich (later Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton), and Lee Iacocca, then the Chairman of Chrysler, who mounted an aggressive campaign to stop the venture.

Toyota and NUMMI

The FTC eventually approved the venture, called New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), which was Toyota’s first vehicle assembly plant in North America. Dennis was named as its first General Counsel and later Vice President, where he handled legal, governmental affairs, environmental, and strategic planning. He also served on the company’s bargaining team with the UAW, working closely with the company’s labor advisor, the legendary labor mediator, Bill Usery, who was a former U.S. Secretary of Labor. Dennis was the author of most of the language in the company’s first collective bargaining agreement, which the New York Times described as “an industrial breakthrough.” The agreement departed from the traditional automotive pattern and allowed NUMMI to introduce Toyota’s lean production system to the United States. The former GM Fremont plant, which was one of the worst performing auto plants in the country, was transformed into one of the best in the country, with the same unionized workforce.

Continuing his executive career in automotive manufacturing, Dennis Cuneo was named Vice President of Toyota’s newly created North American manufacturing headquarters in 1996, where he played a key role in launching and expanding Toyota’s North American manufacturing operations. He oversaw site selection for the company during a period of its rapid expansion in North America, and was described by a leading site selection magazine “as perhaps one of the most sought-after site selectors in the world.” He was eventually promoted to Senior Vice President, and then was named as Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor North America in Manhattan, which was Toyota’s North American holding company. Dennis was the ranking American executive in the holding company, in charge of legal, human resources, research & planning, accounting, IT, government relations, corporate communications, industry relations, and the Latin American research group. He also served as the Company’s Chief Environmental Officer and Corporate Secretary.

Dennis Cuneo Groundbreaking TTC

Dennis Cuneo (second from left) pictured with Governor Granholm of Michigan

Site Selection and Labor Law

In 2006, Dennis retired from Toyota to begin his own advisory firm, DC Strategic Advisors, where he uses his combined legal, labor, site selection, and economic development experience to provide counsel to businesses in the automotive industry, in the high value manufacturing sector, and in Silicon Valley. For example, he is currently advising one of the key suppliers to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, and serves on the advisory boards of two high tech firms. He joined Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national labor law firm, in 2010 and opened its Washington DC office.

He continues his active involvement in the automotive industry as a consultant, serving on the Boards of three major automotive suppliers and the Center for Automotive Research, a leading industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has written for a number of publications, and is often quoted by the media and book authors on automotive, labor and economic development issues. He has spoken at over 100 events, ranging from MIT’s International Vehicle Programs in Berlin and Beijing to serving as the moderator for a panel at a recent Southern Automotive Conference that included Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi.

Additional Information

Dennis splits his time between the East Coast and the Reno/Tahoe area, where he resides with his wife, Bonnie. They have 3 children: Corinne, a graduate of Vanderbilt, who teaches in the Reno area; James, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, who is a senior corporate counsel with, and Kyle, a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, and Head of Radiation Oncology at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital.