Some new iMacs say ‘Assembled in the USA’

Apple has taken a lot of criticism over the years for outsourcing the manufacturing of its products to China and other countries. They’re not the only one that does this — thousands do — but because of their size and influence, they always get singled out.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to hear that a number of new iMac buyers are reporting that their machines have the words “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in USA” etched into the back of them. Is Apple manufacturing in the US now?

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt was the first to report on the matter, noting that a reader had purchased a new iMac from an Apple Store in San Jose, California that had the aforementioned ‘Assembled in USA’ label. Others have seen them as well, including iFixit.

DeWitt says that this isn’t the first time that claims have surfaced of iMacs being built Stateside. Reports of this go as far back as 2006. But most of those cases involved custom-built, or remanufactured computers. The new reports are for off-the-shelf models.

For further explanation of what ‘Assembled in the USA’ means, 9to5Mac points us to the FTC’s official definition:

“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: A lawn mower, composed of all domestic parts except for the cable sheathing, flywheel, wheel rims and air filter (15 to 20 percent foreign content) is assembled in the U.S. An “Assembled in USA” claim is appropriate.”

So we’re not talking about merely popping in a hard drive or a stick of RAM here. Apple is actually building these machines in a factory somewhere. But where? Foxconn is reportedly looking to build a factory in the US, but it hasn’t broken ground yet. And Apple has a plant in California, which interestingly enough has grown in headcount lately, but is it big enough to mass-produce products?

Perhaps the more important question here is that, if true, how is Apple making these computers in the United States while still keeping its profit margins up? And if that’s the case, how long before it can do this with other products like iPhones and iPads?

What do you make of all of this?