It turns out that rumours earlier this year that the Mac Pro would be made in China may be at least partially true.
When Apple announced the new Mac Pro back in June, some initially assumed that it would follow in the footsteps of the 2013 Mac Pro and be made in Austin, Texas. However, Apple itself offered no comment, and before the month was up the Wall Street Journal reported that it would be assembled in China by Apple’s supply chain partner Quanta Computer
Since almost all of Apple’s products are made in China, this may not have been big news were it not for the fact that Apple had made a lot of noise back in 2013 about manufacturing the last Mac Pro in the U.S., rather than China, and that decision was made at a time long before the heated trade war that the U.S. and China have become embroiled in. Although Apple had its problems manufacturing the Mac Pro in the U.S., it still seemed like an unusual time for the company to move back to China — during a time when U.S. President Donald Trump was ordering companies to get out of China.
While Apple urged the Trump Administration to exempt the Mac Pro from tariffs, Trump pointedly refused, telling Apple to “build a plant in Texas instead.” Of course, Apple already had a plant in Texas, thanks to the earlier Mac Pro, and in a move that made it sound like it was Apple’s plan all along (and maybe it was), the company announced in the fall that it would be making the Mac Pro in Texas after all, while also pointedly mentioning that many (but not all) of the components would be designed, developed, and manufactured by American companies throughout the U.S. In fact, Apple made a point of saying that the value of American-made components on the new Mac Pro was actually more than double those in the earlier model, which while assembled in Texas still relied on many components from suppliers in China and other countries.
The focus on the Mac Pro being made in the U.S. of course generated a lot of goodwill between Apple CEO Tim Cook and U.S. President Donald Trump, who used the “opening” of the “new” plant to bolster his political profile and take credit for bringing more jobs back to the U.S.
Some Made in China
However, it seems that what Apple has very wisely failed to mention is that while all of the Mac Pros being sold and shipped in the U.S. are coming from its plant in Austin, Texas, at least some of those sold to customers elsewhere in the world are still being made in China.
As the first Mac Pros begin to arrive in customers’ hands, some in Europe have noticed that their Mac Pros carry the familiar “Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China” tagline on the regulatory notices. This was specifically confirmed by a reader of the French site MacGeneration, who shared a photo of the label on their new Mac Pro.
It’s not yet clear how Apple’s distribution for the new Mac Pro is working, although it seems obvious that those sold in the U.S. will come from its Texas plant, if for no other reason than to avoid tariffs. Reports suggest that most Mac Pros destined for Europe are coming from China, but it’s a bit less clear what the case will be for those sold to U.S. neighbours like Canada or Mexico.
Either way, although the tone of earlier reports suggested that either Apple changed direction with its U.S. manufacturing plans or the reports of the Mac Pro being made in China were inaccurate, it now suggests that Apple definitely planned to make at least some of its Mac Pros in China all along. Although the U.S.-China trade war appears to be getting closer to a resolution, it’s not yet clear if this may result in any political fallout for Apple, and it’s also uncertain how many of the components of the Chinese-made Mac Pro are being made in the U.S., or whether Apple is also sourcing these components from elsewhere.
In the longer term, it will also be interesting to see if there are differences in the quality of the machines made and sold in the U.S. versus those made in China and sold elsewhere. Apple holds its suppliers to very high standards, so we wouldn’t expect any significant differences, but there could be subtle variations in components.