No, I'm not talking about the latest excellent sales figures out of Chrysler (up 37%, just announced the addition of another 1,100 Michigan workers), Ford (up 10%) and GM (up 5%).
No, I'm talking about this bombshell announcement from an obscure (to me, anyway) Minnesota-based company, Element Electronics, which just announced that they're opening a manufacturing plant to build High Def Television Sets...IN DETROIT!!
TV owners can soon see the words "Made in America" on their television sets once again as Element Electronics has announced the grand opening and initial production of its new flat screen TV factory in Detroit, Michigan. With production scheduled to begin in March 2012, Element Electronics will be the only TV company assembling TV's in the United States.
I haven't a clue about the quality of this company's products, what their CEO's politics are or which politicians or PACs they give money to, but on the face of it, this sounds like EVERYTHING that progressives should be hoping for:
"This was also an emotional decision for the company, maybe even a patriotic choice," explains Mike O'Shaughnessy, President of Element Electronics. "Element Electronics is an American company. Personally, I grew up in a small, blue-collar Ohio town. Our business is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We are rooted in the Midwest. We have watched for years as jobs have left America for other countries. We have wanted to and planned for producing TV's here, at home. Element Electronics wants to pioneer a resurgence of creating quality manufacturing jobs in the USA."
They're starting small, with just 100 jobs at the new Detroit plant, but are already planning to expand in the area.
For the record, there hasn't been an American-produced television set since Zenith moved their last U.S. plant to Mexico...in 1991.
This bit made my eyebrows jump up: Not only are they using the "Made in America" angle as a major PR point, they've actually included the "Made in Detroit" HDTVs as a separate product line on their website. Basically, they're going all the way with the Made in America marketing pitch, which I think is fantastic.
Bravo, Element Electronics; I already have a 46" Sharp LED HDTV, but if I ever need a smaller second one for the basement or whatever I'll be sure to give you first shot at my purchase.
I realize that these guys could be a flash in the pan or blowing smoke up all of our collective asses, but assuming that they're on the level, know what they're doing and have a solid, quality product to sell at at least a semi-competitive price, this could be HUGE.
Update: OK, it looks like they're legit indeed; Costco does have their (currently non-USA made) TV's listed right alongside Samsung, Sharp, Vizio, etc.
As several folks have noted, it looks like they're a bargain-brand; their TVs don't appear to be the latest & greatest whiz-bang high-end ultra-thin blah blah, but you know what? That's just fine. Not everyone needs the best-of-breed as long as the product isn't a piece of junk either. Plenty of room for a good-if-not-great product as long as the price isn't unreasonable.
As an example, CostCo is currently featuring a Samsung 46" 1080p 120Hz LED Edge-Lit HDTV for $1,100.
On the same page, they also list an Element Electronics 46" 1080p 60Hz LED Edge-Lit HDTV for $600.
Now, the Element TV includes a built-in JBL 2.1 sound system, but the Samsung is 120Hz vs. 60Hz, which does make a big difference in picture quality.
The question isn't whether the Element model is as good as the Samsung--at 60Hz, and, I presume, some other technical specs that aren't top-of-the-line, it's not going to be--but whether it's good enough for those who can't afford the very best.
Assuming this is the case, then let's take the $600 Made-in-China model and assume that the American-made version is marketed at, say, $700. You're paying a bit of a premium for Made-in-USA, but you're still paying $400 less than you would for the gee-whiz ultracrisp stuff.
I'm perfectly comfortable with that.
Update x2: Hmmm...OK, it looks like the "quality" factor may be more questionable than I thought. The Better Business Bureau gives them an "F" due to issues with the warranty and/or their products. On the other hand, the reviews at CostCo for all 4 models that they sell there are 4 stars or better out of 5.
It sounds like they're of middling quality overall, sold at middling prices, which isn't great to hear, but not terrible either.
Update x3: Here's a "regular guy" basic YouTube review of their 32" HDTV model, bought from Wal-Mart for $350. The gist of it seems to be that their smaller models at low prices are perfect for a second TV (bedroom/basement) or if you're on a tight budget:
Update x4: OK, now this is interesting. Take a look at the diary poll results--out of over 640 responses, there's a very clear consensus about how much "Made in the USA" is worth to most folks (or, at least, most progressives, I suppose): Around 10-30%, with over 85% willing to pay 20% more, and 58% willing to pay 30% more.
So, assuming this holds true in general regardless of the product in question, it would mean that Apple, for instance, should be able to raise the price of their iPads from $500 to $600 if the $600 models were manufactured in the United States (and advertised as such).
The question is, a) how true would this hold with the general public (as opposed to progressive types only), and b) would a 20% markup, along with the savings from not having to ship overseas) be enough to cover the additional costs of manufacturing locally, such as decent wages, etc.?