President Donald Trump surprised everyone yesterday when he told the Wall Street Journal that Apple CEO Tim Cook told him Apple would build three factories in the U.S. It’s worth quoting Trump on this one:
“I spoke to [Tim Cook], he’s promised me three big plants — big, big, big,” he told the WSJ. “I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success. He called me, and he said they are going forward.”
We’ve reached out to Apple and haven’t heard back from them.
There are a few intriguing things with this quote. First, as John Gruber noted, why would Apple share news with Trump without either making an official announcement first or confirming Trump’s information?
Second, Apple doesn’t manufacture its own devices. Instead, the company relies on a wide array of suppliers or assemblers. The most famous one is probably Foxconn as the company has been building more than a billion iPhones for the past ten years.
The Mac Pro is currently manufactured in Texas by Flextronics. It’s the only Apple device made in the U.S. But the Mac Pro is nowhere near as popular as the iPhone — it’s easier to manufacture it in the U.S.
So maybe Trump was asking Apple to ask its suppliers to build plants in the U.S.? Coincidentally, CNBC reported today that Foxconn was about to announce plans to build a factory in Wisconsin.
The timing would be perfect to back Trump’s narrative. But Foxconn also has a ton of other clients, such as Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and more. A Foxconn factory isn’t necessarily an Apple factory.
Moreover, Foxconn has already denied that it would announce plans to open a plant in the U.S. The company has been looking at potential investments in the U.S. for a few weeks for a display-making factory, but it looks like this announcement is not ready just yet.
My theory is that Apple is working on data centers in the U.S. The company recently announced plans for new data centers in Denmark and China. It would make sense to build new data centers in the U.S. as well to serve customers based in North America. Because why would Cook care if Trump's administration is an economic success or not?
Or maybe Trump is right and Apple is going to manufacture its own devices with new plants in the U.S. after all. But are you going to trust his word at this point?