I thought the above video was funny in the sense that it stopped just as the loco was beginning to make those 027 curves. Hmmm. That's a big loco to make 027 curves. Does it actually navigate those curves? And if it did, wow, there's some serious overhang on it.
Ken, I wouldn't be so sure those locos you listed from 2010 have already recovered their tooling costs, unless Lionel has actually said so. And Lionel is usually quiet on such things. It depends on how many runs of those locos were made and how many sold, without blowout pricing. Jerry Calabrese once said a single run of 3,000 units for a scale model is an "exceptionally large production run." On the other hand for perspective, a run of 2,000 units is a limited run for a starter set.
All the train companies (even HO and N) have said it takes several sell out runs to recoup their investment costs on new tooling. In the case of Weaver, the owner said it took around 5 years, but Weaver's overall production was smaller (5,000-8,000 pieces yearly) so that would effect that.
Same thinking for the LC+ electronics development, though I'd guess that's more possible as the LC+ products have been thus far made from existing tooled locos. And of course, the pricing across the entire Lionel line (from many products from long existing tooling) continues to rise, which no doubt helps contribute to supporting overall investments in high end tooling.
Trestrainfan, MTH in the earlier Railking line had several modern locomotive types, selectively compressed for 027/0 traditional operation. Those items were moved to the Rugged Rails line have haven't been produced in several years now. Williams does have some modern loco types like the Dash 8, and while they are more traditional in the sense of features and detailing, they are still near full-scale proportion.
I'd guess Lionel hasn't done anything along the lines of the early MTH Railking Dash 8 because they don't have to. Historically, steam engine starter sets sell better than diesel ones (along with freight over passenger sets), which I think explains the Dockside and 0-8-0 starter steamers. And Lionel does have the U36B and GP38 in their traditional line. And while they are not up-to-date modern, are reasonably close enough.
I think in time, we will see more product types in the LC+ line. Lionel has said for years, they are closely monitoring production numbers and reducing SKU's. They also seem to have distinct separations between the high end Legacy platform (which is where most of the investment tooling dollars are going) and then everything else.
Lionel has said the whole idea behind LC+ was to introduce more customers (a lot of convention operators STILL out there) to the excitement and features of a simplified command format without the added costs. I think a lot of the threads about making changes to the LC+ line are a result of the high cost of the Legacy products, at least for some.
I'd guess Lionel doesn't want to risk the furor over taking recently tooled Legacy products (expensive) and knock them down a notch to the LC+ platform. Which begs the question, just how much less could (and would) they actually sell them for?