I read some of the threads here - not all - and not completely, because my time for such activities is limited, so I don't see every comment on every new kit.
There seems to me to be a feeling among some members here, that we are somewhat careless and sloppy in the way we go about researching and developing kits.
I guess that you could say I have an interest in making an effort to provide some explanation of how / why some new kits have flaws .
I think that I can speak for all of us who try to put nice new kits on store shelves when I say that flaws in kits occur for many reasons none of which include intentionally sloppy research or a lack of caring about the quality of kits we work to produce.
#1 As has been stated over and over, unless the subject is an all new car there are no factory drawings / factory clay models/ digital files to work with - In the "old"days" Johan and AMT had direct accesss to the factory design departments because they produced promos for the Big 3.
Today a 1960's era car kit is an exercise in finding a good reference vehicle to photograph and measure (hopefully a factory stock perfectly preserved or restored example) - then getting photos of every possible detail with good dimensional reference in every photo so China can see exactly what the car looks like. Believe me when it come time to make a mock-up there are never enough photos - there are always details that can't be found in photos.
To be truthful the best solution for me would be to have a perfectly restored example of my next kit sitting in my garage from start of research to finally approved kit in the box so that I could walk out and photograph or measure each little detail whenever there was a question from China
As for the suggestion, often offered in these forums, that reference vehices can be simply scanned into a computer file, my answer is not yet - not for a cost that works for us - and even after a scan is done that still does not provide all the details needed to produce a kit. Even if I could simply scan the car into my computer, I'd still need photos of all the interior, probably photos of the engine bay and lots of details that will not show clearly on a scan.
Errors are bound to creep in because the reference vehicle has non stock features - or because available photos are not perfect references or because the product developer didn't catch them. I can't speak for others but I share images of 3Ds, and mock-ups with several other experienced and trusted modelers and car guys as well as sending test shots to some of these same folks, in my best effort to catch errors that I did not see! ( I don't know for sure but I'd bet that Revell does the same thing) Even then I know thay errors will creep in! I try to educate myself on any specific vehicle we're doing - but I am not a walking encyclopedia of automotive details, and there is no chance that I will ever become one.
#2 The days of working from hand built 1/10 scale models and cutting tools with pantograph machines are as far gone as the age of the steam locomotive. Today every detail if the finished model is produced in a computer 3D file before any physical parts are made. All tool mking is now done from digital files - no more tool makers going into a tool into a tool and revising it by hand if you need to fix something. (To make revisions to our 61 Pontiac we needed to first go back and revise everything in the 3D files and approve all that before they'll touch the tools)
Which brings me to one of several reasons that we miss release dates. The tooling revison process takes time, LOTS OF TIME - when I find a problem - I tell China - they revise 3D files - 15 to 30 days later I get revised 3D files - I review the 3Ds if the files are right they make changes to tools - 30 to 45 days later they send me a test shot. which take about a week in transit. For me to build and review a test shot add another week or so - IF the 3Ds files were NOT right - add 15 to 30 more days. when I get done reviewing the test shot and something else needs to be fixed we can go right back to the revise 3D files step again!
#3 Simple economics dictate that we can't delay a kit to tweak of every tiny detail. We do our best to get these details right - honestly, we do, and product release dates get pushed back because we're doing our damnedest to get them right! BUT at some point we need to decide whether it's more important to keep pouring time and added dollars into revising tools or putting a less than PERFECT kit on store shelves. Trust me, as an example, our factory doe not revise tools for free. I can't keep going back and fixing every tiny detail - if I do try to do that, then there won't be a Moebius Models any longer.
#4 Styrene Plastic injected in steel tooling is an imperfect medium - steel tooling and injection molding can produce spectacularly complex shapes IF you have a big enough budget and plan on producing a big enough run of parts. That said, there are limits to our tooling budgets and production quantities, so from time to time there will be some compromises made in order to keep costs in line - sometimes there will be shapes that cannot be produced in a core, cavity and four slides typically used to make up a car body - that's just the nature of the beast
#5 I see the comments regarding high price of kits these days - I hate to say it but our costs are rising steadily, as are the costs of every other manufacturer - wages in China are going up, old cheap technology is going the way of the Dodo bird, 3D file and CAD design are more costly now in China than a room full of guys making tooling models by hand was a few years ago.. the day of the 10 or 15 dollar kit is past - the days of running 15-20,000 kits every run are long gone. Now those of us who produce kits need to find ways to keep our lights on while running 10,000 or less of a given kit and paying higher tooling and development costs - that. my friend results in a more exensive product on the shelves. It cannot be helped - the days of running 50 thousand copies of any one kit are also long gone.
#6 I keep seeing this question:Why can't you move back to the US? - The simple answer is that there is no one-stop shop for producers like Moebius or for that matter Revell in the US.
In order to produce kits here I'd need a design operation to produce the 3D files for tooling - then a tooling shop to translate those drawings to tooling - then a production shop to shoot plastic in those tools - a printer to produce packaging and instructions - probably a decal printer because the guy who prints boxes can't print decals - then I need to bring everything together somewhere to put it all in a box for the custome to buy - Now it all happens in one place I deal with one guy who makes ONE profit from the transaction, not 6 different guys each of whom expects to profit fromthe their piece of the total project
#7 We are a model kit company, not only a model car kit company, unlike Johan and AMT were, "back in the day". We produce a wide range of kits, not only car kits, so we are not specialized to only do cars - Johan started as 100% cars - AMT originated as 100% car models, while about 30% of the projects that I have going right now are car kits. (BTW Revell is also a multi line model kit company also with a wide range of kits, not only cars)
#8 Company staff size and work loads. I can't speak for other domestic brands here - but our staff in the US is very small
I do almost all product development for EVERY kit we produce NOT just car kits.
Currently I have 20 projects in various stages of development, only 6 of which are cars/trucks. Even though our car kits are less than 1/3 of my project list thay are by far and away the most complex and time consuming projects that I have.
I do my best to research each car project and I talk to several pretty good car modelers and a number of car guys on a very regular basis- I don't pretend to know every detail of each car project - I do my best, but I will be first to tell you that I can and do make mistakes - I'm sure that the same is true of the other guys at other kit producers who do the same job.
We have a full time graphic design guy who produces almost every piece of packaging, decals art, instruction sheets, any magazine ads, all brochures and he does some special project product development - the Florida home office does everything else- licensor relations, purchasing, sales, customer service,warehousing,shipping etc.. All design, tooling, manufacturing, packaging etc is done by our partner in China.
When I see comments here wondering why Moebius or Revell can't put out kits that are absolutely accurate at more affordable prices and on time according to announced release dates all I can think is that there a lack of understanding behind those comments.
I'm sure I won't have changed any minds with my attempted explanation here.
I'm sure that our upcomming kits will inspire the usual chorus of critical comments.
It would, however, be nice to think that there might be a little better understanding for some of the reasons that these kits will have occaisonal flaws, and that we can't just jump right out there and fix them right away.
New Product Development Manger