Well John, as a similar situation, I can only point people to Remington Arms.
I am sure that most folks are familiar with the fact that Remington Arms went bankrupt last month, and its were assets sold off to five different companies.. From 1918 up through the early 80s, they made really good firearms, that were extremely dependable. (There was one issue of the safety on the Rem. 700 rifles, but that could be fixed with a simple substitute.) Remington firearms were more "Americana" than Lionel trains.
And then, in the middle 80s, little by little, they started cheapening everything, and their quality control went to zero. They cranked out everything by CNC machinery, and slapped it together without any fitting or testing whatsever. To save a few bucks on milled steel parts, they started skipping steps, leaving a little ridge, or a few burrs, here and there. To eliminate milled parts, they went to cheap steel stampings and even plastic parts. To save money on stocks, then went from high grade walnut, to low grade walnut, and eventually to ugly beech or birch.
Their highly loyal customer based continued to tolerate this for a while, especially those that were purely cosmetic. But suddenly, it wasn't just cosmetic. It was functional, and the functions were critical. And worse yet, the defects were not fixable.
$800 Model 7 rifles, with bores that were bored off-center. $600 Model 700 rifles with barrels screwed into the receivers crooked. Model 870 pump action shotguns (formerly the most reliable in the world) that would jam on every third shot.
Eventually, their only volume customer was Walmart, who demanded lower and lower price points, so Remington cheapened them even further. After a while, even Walmart got tired of the complaints and dealing with customers who demanded that the guns be returned to the factories.
And then, it was done and over. People just stopped buying them. The used firearms from the earlier days were more in demand than the new ones. After all, there were tens of thousand of those older firearms out there for sale.
And Remington went under.
Once a company stops caring about quality, and stops listening to customers, it is always a long downward spiral to bankruptcy. Savage Arms was probably the only company to avoid this (narrowly), and this was only because a new CEO stepped in and halted production of every crummy product they were making, and focused solely on manufacturing the few quality products that they could still make. Eventually, that quality became widely recognized, and people who got sick of the declining quality of companies like Remington started buying from Savage.
So, I guess that this is what I am worried is happening to Lionel branded products. I sure hope I am wrong.
What could be more simple and basic and important to a well functioning railcar than a coupler?