Is Apple shifting part of its production back to the US?

In 1995, Apple modified its logistic center in Elk Grove, California into a manufacturing plant. For several years the company produced some of its iMacs at the plant until Tim Cook, senior vice president of worldwide operations at the time, moved the production lines to China. However, it seems that Apple is manufacturing some of its desktop computers in the United States again.

In a recent teardown of the new iMac by iFixit, a standard 21 inch model was used with 'Assembled in USA' etched into the aluminium. All iMacs used to be assembled in China, except for refurbished or customized models. On Apple's support forum, someone posted a picture of the previous standard 27 inch model which is assembled in the USA according to both the back of the iMac's stand and the label on the box. A reader of Business Insider found a USA-labeled iMac as well:


Although the stock iMac models could be small first batch and represents a limited run, the 'Assembled in USA' label is bound to some interesting rules of the Federal Trade Commision: 

A product that includes foreign components may be called "Assembled in USA" without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. For the "assembly" claim to be valid, the product’s last "substantial transformation" also should have occurred in the U.S. That’s why a "screwdriver" assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn’t usually qualify for the "Assembled in USA" claim.

Example: All the major components of a computer, including the motherboard and hard drive, are imported. The computer’s components then are put together in a simple "screwdriver" operation in the U.S., are not substantially transformed under the Customs Standard, and must be marked with a foreign country of origin. An "Assembled in U.S." claim without further qualification is deceptive.


There are other speculations that could be related to Apple bringing part of its production back to the US. This year for example, Apple has been hiring big at its Elk Grove facility according to the Sacramento Business Journal, which could potentially be a secret manufacturing base.

Do you own an American assembled iMac? Let us know.

Source: 9to5Mac, TechCrunch | Image via iFixit

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29 Comments

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Brian Miller said,
Is there a legal reason for companies to show where their products were manufactured/assembled?

No; most oroducts aren't required ti show ciuntry of origin. If they do though, they have to meet certain standards.

Assembled could mean anything....it's how they get around import duties.
It might be assembling the entire box (which I doubt), or something as simple as
applying the case to the insides, attaching logos on the outside..."assembled" could
mean anything.
I see it all the time and asked one manufacturing rep. The import duties for a completed
box are more, than they are for one that has to be "assembled".

naap51stang said,
Assembled could mean anything....it's how they get around import duties.
It might be assembling the entire box (which I doubt), or something as simple as
applying the case to the insides, attaching logos on the outside..."assembled" could
mean anything.
I see it all the time and asked one manufacturing rep. The import duties for a completed
box are more, than they are for one that has to be "assembled".

Exactly. You do not pay custom duties on parts, just assembled products (at least in my country). By doing so, you provide employment to people to assemble the stuff.

This is not some benevolent move by apple. Most likely, the bare minimum of "assembly" is required, lowering their import duties significantly.

Paying North American wages and benefits to factory workers would most certainly justify the Apple Tax.
Hell I may even buy an iProduct if this were the case.

Pushing low paying jobs to another nation is tantamount to slavery

Slavery comes in many forms. Lots look at people that work under $10 an hour here in North America as slaves. What they get paid there is worth more then min. wage here. Why can't most people understand that?

deadonthefloor said,
Paying North American wages and benefits to factory workers would most certainly justify the Apple Tax.
Hell I may even buy an iProduct if this were the case.

Pushing low paying jobs to another nation is tantamount to slavery

Can't wait to see how all the crybabies around here are going to put a negative spin on this one.

This just in, apple managed to sell 2 imac's this month. One of which was made in US - could they be shifting the production back to US?

Rohdekill said,
Perhaps 99.99% of it is done overseas and some minimum wage American is paid to put in the last screw.

This is somewhat true. Foxconn has several facilities outside NW Houston where I knew one friend that worked there briefly. He recalled the particular area he worked in would get Cisco products, and they briefly test them for defects, very minor assembling and place a Made in USA sticker of some sorts on it. Plus they treat their employees (mostly immigrated older generartion Asians) like crap, which isn't a surprise based how they operate in China.

Rohdekill said,
Perhaps 99.99% of it is done overseas and some minimum wage American is paid to put in the last screw.

Are you kidding? They are probably assembled for free by the people waiting in line for the latest iPhone. "Hey, put these together while you wait and just drop them off inside the store when you're finished, thanks."

Quikboy said,

This is somewhat true. Foxconn has several facilities outside NW Houston where I knew one friend that worked there briefly. He recalled the particular area he worked in would get Cisco products, and they briefly test them for defects, very minor assembling and place a Made in USA sticker of some sorts on it. Plus they treat their employees (mostly immigrated older generartion Asians) like crap, which isn't a surprise based how they operate in China.


I doubt the cisco product said it was made in the USA. Assembled, sure. But the made in USA labeling us actually very strict. FTC requires that "all or virtually all" components be domestically sourced for an unqualified made in USA label. I suppose they could have been violating the law though.

freeeekyyy said,

I doubt the cisco product said it was made in the USA. Assembled, sure. But the made in USA labeling us actually very strict. FTC requires that "all or virtually all" components be domestically sourced for an unqualified made in USA label. I suppose they could have been violating the law though.

Or, they could have been shipped in from a separate US facility, too. That's more common than you may realize. It's often inefficient to do manufacturing and packaging at the same facility.

freeeekyyy said,

Or, they could have been shipped in from a separate US facility, too. That's more common than you may realize. It's often inefficient to do manufacturing and packaging at the same facility.

Thanks for your response. Perhaps that could be true. Maybe my preconceptions of Foxconn could be wrong on this.

BoredBozirini said,
This means the new iMacs will break in 2 weeks then.

Not really, no. Usually, US made products are more exoensive definitely; that's because of higher, not lower, production standards.

Our countries outsource production to foreign countries such as China to maximise profit, basically to keep shareholders happy. Small start-up's who would normally do the manufacturing at home can't afford to compete unless they to outsource. And all at the cost of jobs at home in our own countries..

I wish that it wasn't purely about maximising profit (especially Apple who aren't exactly short of a few $$$'s) and bringing the manufacturing back into our countries. Surely it would benefit the country and the economy in the long term.

Chicane-UK said,
Our countries outsource production to foreign countries such as China to maximise profit, basically to keep shareholders happy. Small start-up's who would normally do the manufacturing at home can't afford to compete unless they to outsource. And all at the cost of jobs at home in our own countries..

I wish that it wasn't purely about maximising profit (especially Apple who aren't exactly short of a few $$$'s) and bringing the manufacturing back into our countries. Surely it would benefit the country and the economy in the long term.

If you ask the consumer to pay more for a t-shirt that isn't assembled low cost in some sweatshop or pay more for a computer that is assembled in europe or the USA they might do it. But if they have the choice between two products of similar quality but with a price difference (even if small) they will go for the cheapest option. Regardless of where it is made. This is true for most people.

Now you say that the profits on electronics are high enough to manufacture it for a higher price and still sell for the same. I'm not so sure about that to be honest.

XerXis said,

If you ask the consumer to pay more for a t-shirt that isn't assembled low cost in some sweatshop or pay more for a computer that is assembled in europe or the USA they might do it. But if they have the choice between two products of similar quality but with a price difference (even if small) they will go for the cheapest option. Regardless of where it is made. This is true for most people.

Now you say that the profits on electronics are high enough to manufacture it for a higher price and still sell for the same. I'm not so sure about that to be honest.

So how do you square the circle of Apple asking you to paying maybe 50%-60% more for stuff that was also manufactured in China?

Or are you suggesting an iPod assembled in the USA would cost $400 for example?

people whine and complain all the time about "not made in America" but yet when they go buy something 99.5% all buy the lowest priced item if 2 producst are the same which ofcourse means they are buying something NOT "made in america" since no one works for cheap in the US

Chicane-UK said,
Our countries outsource production to foreign countries such as China to maximise profit, basically to keep shareholders happy. Small start-up's who would normally do the manufacturing at home can't afford to compete unless they to outsource. And all at the cost of jobs at home in our own countries..

I wish that it wasn't purely about maximising profit (especially Apple who aren't exactly short of a few $$$'s) and bringing the manufacturing back into our countries. Surely it would benefit the country and the economy in the long term.

Chicane-UK said,
Our countries outsource production to foreign countries such as China to maximise profit, basically to keep shareholders happy. Small start-up's who would normally do the manufacturing at home can't afford to compete unless they to outsource. And all at the cost of jobs at home in our own countries..

I wish that it wasn't purely about maximising profit (especially Apple who aren't exactly short of a few $$$'s) and bringing the manufacturing back into our countries. Surely it would benefit the country and the economy in the long term.

I am assuming that as part of that you expect Apple to accept lower profit margins on their computer rather than raising prices to cover for the extra labour costs? I'd love to live in that wonderful world where that is possible but the best one can hope for, if anything, is a return to the US but high automated production line which unfortunately is the future for many forms of manufacturing.