The latest NASG Dispatch (September-October 2018) has an interview of Ron Bashista of American Models, performed by several members of the Southeastern Michigan S Gaugers. I thought I'd share my impressions and editorial comment [in blue highlight.]
Comments and opinions are mine alone. Those of you that are in the NASG and have received the issue may see things differently.
I'll skip the biographical stuff, except for Ron appears to have quite a surprisingly varied past work experience.
Of course we know that AM recently moved to a bigger facility [So, they must be doing something right.]
[Also, no hint or showing of cards on future new products...]
AM has a small core staff. No number given, but two employees were shown.
I'm guessing there's still a little bad blood between AM and the former SHS. Ron says boxcar sales were great until SHS "dumped" thousands of cars on the market. [I thought the two product lines complimented each other fairly well. What do I know... Well, look at it this way: AM's still here, SHS is isn't and I don't think MTH will be a serious contender unless something changes over there.]
Flyer-compatible and HighRail are what really keeps AM in business. [No surprise there.]
It wouldn't cost less today to produce AM locomotives in China. Most of AM's production is in Michigan. Molding is done in Michigan and AM's still using one of their original subcontractors for parts. Some work is still done in China: Complicated paint jobs [Like the T&P GP9's] and some labor-intensive products not defined in the interview.
The AM steam locomotives were good sellers at affordable prices. Budd cars continue to sell well. All locomotives are tested before they're shipped. [My RS-11's even had my evil twin's name written on their frames...]
A rerun of RS3's or SD60's in the works? "We could get around to it." [Direct quote.] However, nothing with a complicated paint job like the Rock Island RS3.
AM is "kicking around" the possibility of another Pacific. How's about a Mikado using the Pacific boiler. Nope. Ron feels Lionel flooded the market with their HiRail Mikado's over a decade ago and there's not enough Scalers to invest in new drive tooling. [Wouldn't the same logic hold true for a Pacific? Lionel did quite a few of them, too. Well, I suppose it could be because the Pacific's tooling is already done.]
Technology... [Don't hold your breath.] Conventional DC or AC is it. Don't expect to see DCC/TMCC/Legacy or any other hi-tech control system offered in AM products. Ron feels he would have to set up a separate division just to keep up with all of it and any changes.
Track will remain as is, although there's the possibility of Nickle Silver Flex. Ron appears content to let Lionel, MTH and Fox Valley deal with track.
The future: Ron sees the [Gilbert] Flyer market pretty much non-existent in 10 years. [I dunno, Lionel is carrying the "traditional" torch right now and the may help to keep interest in the Gilbert-made stuff alive.] He also doesn't see if there will be enough Scalers to keep S going. [I could go on for hours about some of the closed thinking on the Scale side, but I won't.]
Over all, it was a pretty good interview, even I learned a thing or two. I would have liked to have been given an inkling of some future product, but I guess Ron will let us know if or when he's got something new.