The first “Made in Vietnam” MacBooks are expected to be released in 2023
Apple plans to move some MacBook production to Vietnam for the first time next year as the US giant continues to shift its manufacturing base away from China amid rising political tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Foxconn will manufacture Macs in Vietnam
According to Nikkei sources, Apple has asked its main supplier, Taiwan’s Foxconn, to begin production of MacBooks in the Southeast Asian country from next May. Apple is working to add manufacturing sites outside of China for all of its major product lines, but it’s taken longer because of the complex supply chain needed to make MacBook computers, laptops, and more. Apple is expected to manufacture the latest MacBook Air M2 and the upcoming MacBook Pro M2 Pro / M2 Max there.
After the transfer of MacBook production, all of Apple’s flagship products will have one more production site outside of China… iPhones and MacBooks in India, Apple Watch and iPads in Vietnam. What Apple wants now is an “Outside China” option for at least part of the manufacturing of all its products.
The company has been working on moving some MacBook production to Vietnam for about two years and has set up a test production line in the country. Apple produces 20 to 24 million MacBooks per year, with production split between bases in Chengdu and Shanghai in China’s Sichuan province.
The move to Vietnam comes amid rising geopolitical tensions, as well as production disruptions caused by uncertainty over China’s zero-covid-19 policies and their sudden relaxation in recent weeks.
Same strategy for all American players
For China, losing its lock on MacBook production symbolizes a more general weakening of its position as the world’s factory. Major electronics makers, from Apple, HP and Dell to Google and Meta, have planned to shift at least some production and supply out of China after former US President Donald Trump launched a trade war against the country.
For example, the production of US-bound data center servers designed for Google, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft has moved to, for example, Taiwan, Mexico or Thailand.
Apple’s dependence on China has ended
For decades, Apple has relied on China as its most important assembly base, but that winning formula has reached crisis point this year. In the spring, major MacBook and iPhone manufacturing sites in Shanghai experienced massive downtime due to a month-long COVID lockdown. In November, Apple announced delays in holiday shipments of the iPhone 14 Pro, citing a pandemic-related labor shortage at its main manufacturing site in Zhengzhou, Henan province.
Chiu Shih-fang, a supply chain analyst at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, believes that changes in the technology supply chain are irreversible.
In the past, most people in the industry always hoped that things would ease up and things would go back to the good old days. But this time, they understand that there is no turning back and they must develop alternatives outside of China no matter what.
Chiu believes that rising tensions between the US and China also played a key role:
No one wants their business to be trapped and hit hard because their production is too concentrated in one place. From the largest to the smallest, suppliers must now have solutions to face this new global reality.
Apple’s diversification into Vietnam began in 2020 with mass-produced AirPods there. The company also moved part of its iPad and Apple Watch production to the Southeast Asian country. It is this year and in October it announced the start of iPhone production. 14 in India, just weeks after the launch of the brand’s latest flagship phone.