Curious number of new iMacs born in the USA

Apple shifting more manufacturing to the US, starting with new iMacs

For some time now there have been Apple products that bore "Assembled in USA" labelling, specifically built-to-order custom-configured Macs. But standard configurations of MacBooks and iMacs universally came over from China. As noted by Fortune, some of Apple's new super-slim 21.5-inch iMacs are coming with "Assembled in USA" labels, in standard configurations available off-the-shelf at Apple's retail stores. Now, not all of the new iMacs bear USA labeling, there are a lot that also come with the China labels still. But enough to be curious.

Back in May of this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook was the opening interview for D10, offering a wide-ranging discussion about the past, present, and future of Apple. At that time, All Things D's Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg pressed Cook on a touchy subject for any multinational manufacturer of anything: why build in China instead of in the US? Cook offered a safe answer, explaining that he wants Apple products to be built in the US of A, but that the flexibility and speed of the Chinese industrial complex and availability of skilled workers in China make building iPhones and the like hard to justify manufacturing in the US. But, said Cook, Apple does purchase several components from US manufacturers; the ARM-core chips used in iOS devices are built in Texas and Gorilla Glass for the mobile screens is manufactured in Kentucky by Corning. Alas, the boxes kept coming, noting "Designed in California. Assembled in China."

That "Assembled in China" line is a standard note on many devices (with the exception of a few companys, such as Sony who tends to build in Japan, or Samsung who puts things together in South Korea), though for some time now there have been Apple products that bore "Assembled in USA", specifically built-to-order custom-configured Macs. But standard configurations of MacBooks and iMacs universally came over from China. As noted by Fortune, some of Apple's new super-slim 21.5-inch iMacs are coming with "Assembled in USA" labels, in standard configurations available off-the-shelf at Apple's retail stores. Now, not all of the new iMacs bear USA labeling, there are a lot that also come with the China labels still.

Why exactly these standard entry-level iMacs are coming from US assembly plants instead of China isn't clear. As 9to5Mac points out, the regulations surrounding "Assembled in the USA" are quite specific, requiring more than just a screwdriver to make it so. It could be Apple actually moving more manufacturing to the United States, or it could be a case of difficulties in the new iMac's complex production necessitating that the US-based custom-order plants pick up some of the slack in order to meet expected demand at launch time. Maybe it's a combination of both.

There's still a lot that would need to happen for Apple or any other purveyor of electronic gadgets to be able to move an entire manufacturing line for mass market products like iMacs or iPads or iPhones to the United States, but you've got to start somewhere.

Source: Fortune,  9to5Mac

 

Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, Army musician, armchair pundit, and professional ranter.

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There are 10 comments. Add yours.

Eisforme says:

Is there any way to find out who is assembling these in America?

DuexNoir says:

I don't quite buy the excuse that the US lacks certain human resources and capabilities as reasons why Apple does not position a larger proportion of its manufacturing in the US and not in China. If the Koreans and the Japanese (two nations of much smaller population and geographic size) can do a large proportion of their manufacturing within their own respective nations, why can't a US company like Apple? Or is Apple saying that US citizens are less capable than Chinese?

Christopher Schlief says:

Well most of it really has to do with cost. US citizens are going to at least need minimum wage and they won't be happy with that and will ask for more. While in China they are happy to make almost anything (or at least a lot less). And Americans are not as willing to work. If Apple opened a plant in the US it could take months to fill those jobs and in China there would be line ups of people wanting jobs. The US is just not a place a company like Apple can justify to Manufacture their products in. But in the future maybe Americans will be more willing to at least have a job and more companies can bring their manufacturing there.

toddfsu says:

"Americans are not as willing to work." This is the important point. The low-skilled labor market has rapidly decreased in the last decades. The US culture encourages high levels of education and other specialties which has diminished our low-skilled labor force. To me this is sad, the stereotype and the disgrace of not having a GED or degree is wrong. A bright young adult could take one of these jobs, and really excel in the US (free from student loans... not a bad thing). I recently worked with a man who does not have a degree, started with the company hand delivering product off a truck, years later he is now in corporate developing solutions and streamlining operatings. That being said, Foxconn has 1 million employees. Can you imagine this in the US? I don't think it would work in a city the size of LA, NYC and Chicago combined.

Now, it's possible for some iMac's to be assembled in the US. Possibly custom, built-to-order machines... or it's possible the iMac's took so long to be released due to the US robotics needed to build these systems. I do hope this label is true, I think it's cool. The US needs to build more products. You have to make something out of nothing to make $.

Off my social/political soap box. I'll show myself to the door. :-)

SteveW928 says:

In addition to what the other have said, industries like this in the USA generally become overrun by unions of Marxist ideology (antagonistic, 'the worker' vs 'the management/owner' philosophy). We've seen what this does to industries like the automobile manufacturing, or in education. (The former can't compete easily; the latter is just hugely inefficient but 'stays in business' because taxpayers foot the bill.) This would pretty much not only ruin Apple's products (quality), but also price them out of the market.

Also, remember that 'assembly' (and I'm not even sure what % of that has to be done for that label) is only one small part of a product. The raw materials come from all over the globe, with various stages of processing, design, shipping, etc. Then sub-assembly is done all over. Then the final assembly stages. This is true for ANY product. Very few products are 'made' in any particular country, even if they say that on the label, as 'made' typically just means that final assembly.

More likely, I think we just need to start realizing that country borders are somewhat meaningless in a global market. It's GOING to keep going that way... any 'trade' barriers are just that, artificial barriers hoping to stabilize the status quo between economic situations. Think of it like the ocean around New Orleans with the dykes trying to keep the ocean out (with the USA being New Orleans). I think eventually, we're just going to have to face the reality that we're not the only smart, productive people on the planet (and becoming less so as our society falls). It wasn't genetic, but earned. We need to keep earning that, or get used to things leveling out (which will happen to some extent, no matter what we do). In other words, we need to get some reality back into our standard of living and realize we're going to have to work hard to compete... and that it's only fair for those others to compete with us (and, of course, hold their government's feet to the fire as much as possible to give basic worker-rights to bring the fairness up some on their side as well).

jngmin00 says:

What do you think is better? Assembled in USA or China.

flyersfan76 says:

Assembled in USA and Made in USA mean two different things though.

The parts are still all the same which you would think is the main cost of an electronic item.

Dheinle says:

When I was in the local Apple store I was told that these iMac's could not be transported in a pressurized cabin because of the way the new screens are made. I think he probably meant un-pressurized. It will be interesting to see how my new iMac arrives in several weeks.