Weber grills were originally invented in Palatine, Illinois, when George Stephen Sr., working at Weber Bros. Metal Works, made a new kind of grill. He was trying to improve the brazier he had been using at home and was inspired by the buoys built in the shop at work.
His new grill had a distinctive domed shape, and his neighbors called it the “Sputnik,” but loved the food he made. He launched “George’s Barbecue Kettle” in 1952, and a legend was born.
Eventually barbecues, and George himself, became the driving force behind Weber, and the company has continued to refine, innovate, and dominate the home grill market ever since.
Although Weber has always been an Illinois company, they experienced some controversy a few years ago, when their “Made in USA” labels were challenged in court. Although the company is still headquartered in Illinois, as it has been for over a century, where are Weber grills actually made?
The Weber ‘Made in the USA’ Lawsuit
Many consumers look for products made in the USA. They often feel that these products are of a higher quality, or they are motivated by a desire to support American businesses and their local economies. Marketers understand these consumers, and often actively promote products as being made domestically, knowing that this kind of label can boost sales, as well as promoting a company’s image to American buyers.
In 2011, Weber faced a class-action lawsuit after consumers discovered that grills sold under the “made in the USA” label included parts and components made in China and Taiwan. Some of Weber’s customers felt deceived by the “made in the USA” label, and took their grievance to court.
At the time, Weber claimed that their “made in the USA” labeling was not deceptive marketing, issuing the following statement:
“Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong.”
In a certain sense, if the products are designed in the United States, and contractors in other countries make them to the same standards and quality, perhaps it doesn’t matter where they are actually made. But there’s no doubt that such practices to make a “made in the USA” claim ambiguous at best.
Weber settled the lawsuit in 2012, and now claims that their grills are “Made in USA, incorporating globally sourced component parts.”
If your Weber grill does not say “made in USA, incorporating globally sourced component parts,” then it is one of the models that is entirely manufactured in another country.
Which Weber Grill Models are Made in the US?
While, according to Weber’s 2012 statement, all but one line of their grills was manufactured and assembled in the USA, that is no longer true. As of 2020, hardly any Weber grills are made entirely in the US. The Weber Smokefire is the exception that is made in the US.
Why Weber Grills are No Longer Made in the USA – The Issue of Outsourcing
There is of course a good reason why Weber grills are no longer made in the USA, or at least why many of the components are manufactured outside of the USA. The issue of outsourcing the manufacturing of goods has been a highly contested subject ever since the dawn of globalization.
So, why would Weber choose to follow this method out manufacturing abroad and assembling at home?
- Companies often choose to outsource the manufacturing of goods to third world countries, also known as the global south, due to taxation issues. Large conglomerates often pay far lower taxes abroad, in these various countries, than at home in the USA. It allows companies like Weber to pay far lower taxes.
- Labor and manufacturing costs in general tend to be quite lower overseas, particularly in these global south countries where the laws concerning labor and wages are often far more relaxed. Simply put, people working in China and other such countries where manufacturing is often outsourced to, are not paid as much, therefore allowing these companies to save money.
- Outsourcing also allows the home company to focus far more on their own goals. It allows for much easier plan and goal development. These companies, like Weber, no longer have to keep oversight over manufacturing. They hire outside companies to do the heavy lifting.
- At the end of the day, all of this comes together to provide the consumer with products that are much more affordable, thus increasing sales and profit margins at the same time.
Some Problems with Outsourcing Manufacturing
Yes, there are some perceived problems and issues that come with the outsourcing of manufacturing to countries other than the USA.
- Products often suffer from quality issues due to lower standard and an overall lack of quality control during the manufacturing process. Although, Weber claims that the quality of their products is not affected by this.
- There are also human rights to think about. Is it fair to outsource labor and manufacturing to other countries, when companies in those countries often do not treat their employees fairly? Longer working hours and lower compensation are both issues which foreign workers in these countries often have to deal with.
- There are also environmental issues to think about. Outsourcing relies on shipping goods back and forth using freighters and other major transportation methods. This can be very taxing on the environment.
Which Weber Models are Assembled in the US From International Parts?
The following Weber grill models are assembled in the United States from parts sourced around the world:
- Weber Summit
- Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
- Q Series
- Smokey Joe
- Jumbo Joe
Which Weber Models are Made and Assembled Outside of the US?
The following Weber grills are both made and assembled in China or Taiwan:
- Spirit Series
- Genesis II series
Weber holds true to their American roots, and rigorously designs and engineers all their products in the USA. Their products are repeatedly subjected to “torture testing” meant to simulate decades of use, and their warranty shows that they are proud of their products and have faith in their manufacturing process, no matter where in the world it is.
In a day and age where many products of all kinds are made outside of the US, these practices are not unusual. But it is unfortunate that this iconic American company no longer makes their grills in the USA.
If you are thinking of Weber as one of the great American success stories, you aren’t wrong. George Stephen created the outdoor American barbecue as we know it and pioneered a company that sells some of the best grills you can buy, in countries around the world.
Although most Weber grills can no longer claim to be “Made in the USA,” they remain an essential part of the American experience and are still some of the best grills in the marketplace.