Would you shell out an extra $50 for your iPhone if it were made in the United States?
Maybe, but getting consumers to pay more isn’t even the most unrealistic aspect of Donald Trump’s goal of forcing Apple to bring manufacturing back to America.
Presidential candidate Trump made headlines this week when he declared that, if elected, he’d force Apple to start building “their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”
That’s just the kind of populist, ignorant thing my crazy uncle might say while he sits in his armchair at the annual family holiday. It’s also pretty unrealistic.
The estimated $50 price bump for a U.S.-made iPhone comes from iFixit’s Kyle Wiens, who knows a thing or two about manufacturing. Motherboard asked him what it might cost to build an iPhone here in the United States.
“Building [Apple products] in the U.S. isn’t impossible,” Wiens said, “but a matter of whether or not consumers are willing to pay more for them.”
Wiens’ informal math shows iPhones costing an extra $50 per unit if they were merely assembled in the United States.
While an extra $50 an iPhone doesn’t sound too bad (though there are plenty of people unwilling to pay for iPhones at current prices), the realities of modern manufacturing almost preclude a U.S.-based workforce.
Even if consumers were willing to pay more, bringing manufacturing jobs back here from China — and having American workers perform at overseas levels — ignores many other factors. If Apple were to pursue such a strategy, it would also cost more up front and in the long run to source only U.S.-made components.
There are also pesky U.S. labor laws to contend with, as well as how American workers expect to be treated.
As a former director at Foxconn, Apple’s main manufacturing partner in China, told Motherboard, the Chinese company has in the past had to send 1,000 machinists more than 1,000 miles across the country in just a few days, without business coming to a screaming halt.
“Can you imagine the governor of Michigan saying, ‘I need 1,000 machinists in Detroit by Friday’? Could you do it?” he asked.
The answer to that is, Mr. Trump, fairly clear.
Trump may be the front-runner for the Republican nomination, but that doesn’t mean he really understands what it would take to get any major company to bring its manufacturing back to the United States.
The reality is a lot more complex than a simple sound bite can convey.