The company’s founder griped that the government has set an unattainable standard
The Federal Trade Commission has forced Shinola to change its advertising to specify that its watches are only built—but not made—in America and use imported parts.
In a June 16 letter to the Detroit company’s general counsel, FTC lawyers said that Shinola’s past ads, particularly its “Where American Is Made” slogan, “overstated the extent” to which its timepieces are actually manufactured in the United States. In some cases, it said, 100 percent of its parts are produced aborad.
“Unqualified ‘Made in USA’ or ‘Built in USA’ claims likely suggest to consumers that products are ‘all or virtually all’ made in the United States,” said the letter, which warned that the agency will continue to monitor Shinola’s advertising.
In response, the company implemented a remedial action plan that includes dropping its “Where American Is Made” slogan, and appending its other ad claim, “Built in Detroit,” to add “using Swiss and imported parts.”
In a statement, company founder Tom Kartsotis complained that the FTC has set an impossible benchmark for U.S. companies.
“While the FTC did show us some flaws in our communication, we believe that we have genuinely tried to be completely transparent as to the origin (and mission) of our products from the outset,” he wrote. “Shinola has always tried to…bring jobs to America by training individuals here to handle as much of the manufacturing process as possible, while at the same time, attempting to remain competitive on a global scale. Many of the components and raw materials are simply not available in the U.S., and because of that we are unable to meet the almost unattainable ‘Made in USA’ standards created by the government.”
He griped that car makers aren’t held to the same standard and called for a “change in policy [that] clarifies for the consumer what it truly means to be Made in the USA.”
And while Switzerland reportedly this week tightened the criteria for calling a watch “Swiss made,” its criteria are generally looser. To bear that label, 60 percent of the watch’s parts must be produced in-country.