Motorola became part of a growing trend when it opened a plant in Texas to build its flagship Moto X, but just a year on, its now decided to shut down its US manufacturing operations. According to The Wall Street Journal, employee numbers have plummeted from nearly 4,000 when it was in full swing to only 700, and the plan is to close the factory by the end of the year. Motorola's intention was to offset the inherently higher cost of manufacturing in the US, compared with places like China, by being able to get handsets to customers quicker, and manage the Moto Maker customization process on home turf. But, despite churning out 100,000 Moto Xs a week at one point and progressively making the handset cheaper, the 'born in the USA' vision hasn't paid dividends.
Motorola's in ownership limbo at the moment, as Google has essentially sold the smartphone-maker to Chinese company Lenovo, but the deal is yet to be fully executed. Motorola President Rick Osterloh told the WSJ "the decision to close the plant was independent of the planned sale," which isn't hard to believe given Lenovo is one of the champions of stateside manufacturing. It has a PC plant in North Carolina, and like Motorola, believes there's a competitive edge in being close to your customers and able to customize and ship computers quicker. Perhaps, then, there's scope for Motorola to return to the US under Lenovo's leadership. The Moto X will continue to be made elsewhere, and with Moto Maker being one of the main attractions of the handset, we imagine this'll still be available on the next edition of the X due this summer, even if it takes much longer to ship.
Beyond what it means for Motorola as a company, the fact it's had to pull the plug on its US plant after such a short time raises much bigger questions about the viability of manufacturing electronics in the US. Last year, the company convinced us it was going to make it work, so how long before others begin changing their tune as well?