An interesting consideration was Auscision's foray into providing un-built kit versions of their wagons. While I purchased two NHFF's, I cannot remember the exact price. I do recall them as being a good, affordable and relatively simple kit. The fact that this concept didn't continue hints that it wasn't overly successful
Those Auscision kits were fully unbuilt and unpainted. ie: they were just the mouldings still on the sprues, similar to an SEM or AR Kits model. What I'm referring to is something like the old Athern shake the box kits. ie: the main parts are assembled and already painted. Then the purchaser simply adds the finer detail such as brake rigging, handrails, bogies, couplings, etc...
If you're getting the chinese to add these parts on it increases the production time and requires more skill from them. Not everybody even wants that sort of detail (plenty on here have said it's too fine and breaks off). Surely there would have to be some limited saving, but more importantly it decreases the amount of things that they can screw up and leaves it in the hands of someone who actually cares (ie: the person who pays for the model) rather than somebody who is doing it as a relatively low paid job and just wants to go home at the end of the shift.
To put it simply, even if they cost the same I would rather a shake the box type kit where I can add the detail to my standards rather than trust someone who doesn't care. As The Blacksmith said you often have to re-attach parts that have fallen off the model anyway!
Someone could just buy carefully chosen RTR models and use them as part of their model of a railway, thus they are also undeniably a "modeller" because they are building the greater model of a railway, not just a loco etc.
If you can build a greater model of a railway, not just a loco, then I'm sure that person would be able to spend an hour or two attaching handrails, hoses, mirrors, etc... It's not *that* hard. My comments were aimed at the people who don't want to do anything. I guarantee that if someone did produce a shake the box type kit plenty of people would come out of the woodwork and whinge and moan about "oh no I have to glue on a handrail.... I paid $xxx for this item somebody should do it for me!"
And if I sound a bit bitter and cynical about the whole state of the hobby, well yes I am. Sure we've never had such a good range of RTR models, etc... However, I think ultimately people are becoming lazy and simply waiting for the RTR importers to produce it rather than supporting the local industry by purchasing kits, detail parts and even kitbashing or scratchbuilding. This then has a compound effect where those cottage industries become less viable and ultimately dissappear.
Shake the box kits would at least provide an introduction to doing something yourself and may actually eventually lead new modelers into purchasing kits from the local companies rather than always relying on RTR.
I've often said that my first kit was a BGM GY. Well that's not entirely true, I built some Athern Union Pacific blue box coal hoppers back when I was very young, and then some old time Roundhouse passenger cars which were a little more complex. I never really considered these as "kits" in my own mind, but they did start me on the path of "modelling"