Business, Economics and Jobs

Foxconn Electronics to open factories in US?


Foxconn worker jumps to his death at the company's Chengdu plant. This is the first suicide since the Apple manufacturer made reforms to improve working conditions for its 1.2 million employees.



Is Foxconn Electronics, the Taiwanese manufacturer that makes most of the world's iPhones, preparing to open factories in the US?

That's what "market watchers" are telling industry news site DigiTimes. According to its sources, Foxconn is currently looking at potential sites in Detroit and Los Angeles.

Rumors suggest the plants would assemble LCD televisions, which are less labor-intensive than iPads or iPhones.

This is all unconfirmed so far. Apple doesn't even sell an LCD TV yet – though speculation that it will has been building for months. (Rumor site AppleInsider says some expect sets to be in shops by Christmas this year.)

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DigiTimes' report comes in the same week that Foxconn invited US engineers to tour its infamous factories in China, in order to get first-hand experience of manufacturing.

According to the Associated Press, Foxconn chairman Terry Gou has said that "he did not believe President Barack Obama could succeed in moving production lines back to the US because Americans have outsourced those jobs for too long."

Gou wants to offer dozens of American engineers the chance to learn from Foxconn's practices, especially how the company has automated parts of the manufacturing process.

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Some commentators argue that such automation is key to bringing manufacturing back to the US, where labor costs are far higher than in China.

In a Forbes piece called 'Yes, We Can Make iPhones in America,' Baizhu Chen suggests that the old assembly-line system no longer makes sense under today's cost structure, but that new technology – such as 3D printing – could "decentralize" manufacturing and make it once more cost-effective in the US.

Gou also said this week that Foxconn was struggling to meet demand for Apple's new iPhone 5, which is the most complex yet to build. He declined to say whether the company planned to outsource some of the orders, Agence France-Presse reported.

Read GlobalPost's special series on outsourcing, America the Gutted.