Let me state a few idea about producing in Asia. I buy a lot materials in Asia in my job so maybe this will give you a little hindsight.
- China and Taiwan are (to this day) two very different countries, with a quite a different manufacturing culture (Taiwan is more western, while China is on a steep and quick learning curve still).
So please, stop referring to Taiwan as China, and vice versa. It makes both Chinese and Taiwanese cringe... trust me, i try to avoid that when i go there
It s like saying Canada and the US are the same country...
- Why is "China" cheaper ? Mostly because of the lower cost of labor as a whole. Not only in salary, but also in all of the incurred costs (Dental, 401K etc.. which are very very rare).
Raw materials are cheaper but that gap is closing somewhat because of the huge demand of China s main market.
However, there is no denying that any work done in Asia that involves manual labor (painting, assembly, hand making etc;.) is way cheaper than anywhere in the world to this day. (Japan is the only exception).
- When you are dealing with injection molded parts (Arms, plastic shock parts etc..) the cost difference of producing parts in asia and in the west is minimal (like 3 to 5%, sometimes zero).
The reason is that petrol (which plastic is made of) has the same price for everyone on the planet, and that injection molding is an automated process.
The cost of the tooling is however indeed cheaper is asia because of labor costs.
- One of the advantages also of manufacturing in China is that your productivity gains appear quicker for a given production.
Translated in normal language, this means that the price difference of producing 100 or 10 000 units is lower than in europe.
This means more flexibility and lower costs for production runs for small quantities (which applies to r/c cars quite well).
(Small quantitiy means "less than 100 000 units" - compare this to the automotive industry where you re talking about Millions - easily).
- Producing in Asia and in The US is not incompatible and definitely not a quality problem. If you have the right people in Asia, and good engineers who design your products (whether in US, Monaco or Zambia), you can sleep soundly and be sure that you ll have the right product.
Tolerance level can be terrible with a moronic supplier anywhere in the world.
You also always need a local network of suppliers for some standardized parts, volume heavy items and of course parts where it does not always make sense to order from outside (Final packaging for instance..)
I have here on my desk parts made in mainland China who have the lowest technical tolerance possible on CNC or injection mold. They were correctly designed and had a good quality control, that s it.
- Stop Bashing AE for having Thunder Tiger in Taiwan, It is the only sensible way to offer a lower priced car to the masses and it actually helps the hobby in the long run.
I get everyone when they say they d like good quality from AE, this applies to any manufacturer. But id rather read "I hope the quality will be good" than "I hope thay make eveything in such and such country, with such and such chassis, with such and such guy" which is not a guarantee at any point.
Point is You can have an excellent local supplier or a really bad one, regarless on where you are.
Also please realize, on a broader perspective, that if AE and Thunder Tiger are one today, it is also the best way to protect AE (and AE jobs, and a supplier network that they still have in the US, and their distributors, and your local LHS, and the R/C press jobs etc.. etc..) from the real cheap competition coming also from Asia.
Some local R/C market are getting full of cheap knockoffs, with no parts support, and low quality, but rock bottom prices. THAT is what s really threatening for AE potentially if they ever swamp the large US market.
Sorry for the rant, i m just trying to be a little constructive