USA! USA! ... Aw, screw it. Motorola to close Texas smartphone plant
Turns out it really is hard to make things in the US, after all
Motorola Mobility's adventure in stateside manufacturing is coming to an end, with the Google subsidiary announcing that it plans to close its Fort Worth, Texas factory less than a year after launching its vaunted Moto X smartphone.
The plant opened in May 2013 specifically to assemble the Moto X for US customers, but The Wall Street Journal reports that Motorola will shutter it by the end of this year.
Motorola made a big deal out of building its newest flagship handset on US soil, even though most of its components were manufactured overseas. Customers who ordered the device from the Moto Maker website could even deck it out in a range of custom color combinations, built to order and shipped in mere days.
The trouble is, Motorola never sold enough of the Moto X to achieve the economies of scale that would have made the whole operation profitable.
Part of that was because Motorola was gambling on big sales in the US, which never really happened. On launch, the Moto Maker store – one of the Moto X's key selling points – was available only in the US. British and European customers weren't able to order custom versions of the device until almost a year later.
What's more, some customization options such as phone back pieces made out of real wood weren't even available to US customers until months after the phone launched.
Expecting any phone to remain a hot seller a year after it launches is a tall order in today's market. And the Moto X always lacked the processor oomph of other flagship handsets, such as those from HTC, LG, and Samsung.
While other Android phone makers crowed about their mobes' raw performance, Motorola built the Moto X with a modest, dual-core CPU, but added a number of unique, user-friendly features, such as pervasive voice control and a "contextually aware" lock screen that reacts to sensors.
These subtle distinctions never really went over with US customers, however, and Motorola's hoped-for sales never materialized. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, the company sold 900,000 Moto X smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2014. Samsung, on the other hand, sold 10 million Galaxy S5 handsets in the device's first month.
At its peak, Motorola's Texas plant employed around 3,800 people, the WSJ reports, but the head count has since dwindled to around 700.
By the time it closes, not just Motorola's manufacturing but the entire company will have left the US. Google expects its sale of the division to Chinese PC maker Lenovo to close later this year.
In the months since the launch of the Moto X, Motorola's more recent devices have been budget handsets like the Moto G and Moto E, but a company spokesman told the WSJ that Motorola will continue to manufacture the higher-end Moto X in Brazil and China, among other places. ®