Iconic American Products Manufactured Overseas

Certain brands are quintessentially American, and these household names contribute to the nation’s identity, culture, and global recognition. Coca-Cola, UPS, Dell, Ford, Microsoft, McDonald’s, and Apple are some of the most recognized American brand names, but when it comes to how iconic brands bring their products to market, you’ll find a much more global undertaking.

In reality, numerous products associated with American heritage are at least partially manufactured overseas. Here, we present nine iconic American products that undergo some overseas manufacturing.

1. Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi’s jeans are one of the most sought-after denim brands, known for their distinct American fashion appeal. Originating in the United States, they embody the spirit of hard work and blue-collar style. Nevertheless, Levi’s has a global supply chain strategy that locates some of its manufacturing operations overseas.

While some lines are still entirely produced within the United States, most of their manufacturing has shifted to partners in nearshore and offshore locations. Levi’s denim products are manufactured in:

  • China
  • Mexico
  • Vietnam

2. Rawlings MLB Baseballs

While baseball is often referred to as “America’s Pastime” and reflects many aspects of American life, Major League baseballs are actually produced in Costa Rica. MLB baseballs are made from leather tanned in Tennessee, utilizing hides processed in Pennsylvania and final assembly is done in Costa Rica.

This American product overseas manufacturing can be attributed to several factors, primarily the substantial quantity of baseballs required and the labor-intensive nature of their production. The final assembly and stitching of baseballs necessitate meticulous handiwork, and each ball is used only a few times before being replaced. As a result, manufacturing them abroad proves to be more cost-effective.

3. American Girl Dolls

American Girl Dolls have been cherished among children and collectors for generations. While it may be natural to assume that such a product is entirely manufactured within the United States, this is not the case.

These dolls are known for their relatively high cost, a characteristic often associated with products made in the United States due to higher manufacturing expenses. However, American Girl Dolls have never been made in America. Throughout their history, American Girl dolls have been manufactured in two locations: Rodental, Germany, and Shenzhen, China. 

4. Apple Products (Specifically, iPhones)

Apple’s rise to prominence stands as one of the remarkable success stories of Silicon Valley, characterized by relentless effort and innovative prowess that led to the establishment of an empire. Now, physical construction predominantly occurs overseas for almost all of Apple’s products. The iPhone is a prominent example of the American product overseas manufacturing movement.

Traditionally, China has been the primary manufacturing hub for Apple’s phones. However, in recent times, Apple has begun diversifying its supply chain by shifting a portion of its manufacturing operations to India. This strategy, commonly known as dual sourcing, a “China+” or “Asia+1” strategy, aims to mitigate the risk of relying solely on one supplier. 

5. Nike

Nike, renowned for producing athletic products utilized by global athletes, originated in Oregon. However, the company opted for overseas manufacturing relatively early in its journey to success. Nike shoes were originally made in Japan. Production gradually shifted to other low-cost manufacturing destinations throughout Asia, leading to the switch of this American product overseas manufacturing.

The labor-intensive nature of shoe manufacturing and Nike’s requirement for large-scale production are key considerations. Offshoring allowed the company to effectively manage labor costs while sustaining high-volume production runs.

By shifting manufacturing operations overseas, Nike found a way to strike a balance between cost efficiency and meeting the demands of their consumer base. 

6. Guitars (Fender and Gibson)

Numerous guitar companies and their iconic designs have become inseparable from the fabric of American music. The Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, Gibson 335, and Les Paul have played pivotal roles in shaping American music’s evolution and attaining worldwide superstardom.

While these guitars were initially manufactured in factories located in California and Tennessee, the production landscape has undergone significant changes. A considerable portion of manufacturing has shifted to countries such as Mexico and Vietnam. Notably, American versions of these guitars still exist, commanding high price tags as premium models.

7. Ford Motor Company

Ford undeniably holds a significant position as one of the most iconic American brands. Looking at the most popular Ford in America, the Ford F-150 truck, it’s produced either in Dearborn, Michigan, or Claycomo, Missouri. Other Ford trucks are assembled in Kentucky, Michigan or Mexico. 

However, like all major automotive manufacturing, Ford assembly plants pull products together from a truly global supply chain. Some of Ford’s top component part and subassembly suppliers are located in Japan, Hungary, Poland, Canada, Germany, China, Sweden, and of course, the United States.

The automotive industry is a great example of how a truly global supply chain can come together to provide value to the consumer. Ford and other major automotive manufacturers take advantage of localized workforce skills, access to raw materials, labor rates, and global logistics to bring products together from ideal manufacturing locations through to the final assembly plant.  

8. Steel

Steel production was pivotal in driving the U.S. economy and bolstering the construction industry for several decades. As a result, the United States emerged as a dominant force in the global economy. However, similar to various other sectors, some steel production gradually shifted overseas to achieve cost reduction.

The relocation of steel production has had an interesting outcome; it has facilitated the growth of markets in other parts of the world. This, in turn, has resulted in increased availability of affordable steel and opened up new markets for U.S. companies to sell their products. In recent years, a resurgence of demand for U.S. steel production has brought formerly dormant blast furnaces back online, and companies such as the United States Steel Corporation produce steel in operations across the United States and globally.

9. Dell Computers

While Dell remains headquartered in Texas and continues to provide computer resources for global companies, its personal computer manufacturing operations have primarily shifted to Mexico.

The reason for this overseas manufacturing? Mexico offers advantages such as lower labor costs and favorable trade agreements, making it an appealing location for Dell to optimize its manufacturing operations. By leveraging manufacturing capabilities in Mexico, the company can efficiently produce personal computers while maintaining competitiveness in the global market.

Find the Right Manufacturing Options for You

Considering the right mix of global manufacturing partners to get your product to market at the best value to your clients is a complex strategic decision. ITI Manufacturing collaborates with businesses worldwide, offering manufacturing supply chain solutions across diverse industries.

A specialized partner like ITI Manufacturing will streamline the process of evaluating manufacturing alternatives and enhance supply chain management efficiency. Schedule a consultation and leverage our expertise to make informed decisions and identify the manufacturing solutions that align with your goals.

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