#3 As you know, Fender offers better priced guitars built in the USA... I'm not a Fender fan/player but their success & customer value far exceeds any pointy headstock manufacturer by epic proportions.
Companies must learn how to incorporate customers/social into product research. The more the better and the sooner the better before making decisions/changes. This what dealers do for exclusive/limited runs in fact.
Fender for example knows all the variables, costs, limitations of current production (stuff we don't know) and should incorporate real feedback from customers into the equation. Again the trick is not using 100% some lame algorithm but using it proportionately with human decisions. And it's early days here again. But it's not fair to knock Fender for giving the public what it wants (Tele/Strats). You can't have it both ways.
You know what, I will give you credit where credit is due:
1. Fender is an iconic brand and the Fender Stratocaster is an iconic symbol. Fender does build guitars in the USA. Better priced? Compared to what?
2. When it comes to product research, I think Fender and Gibson are the best. (I do not like their methods) The upper echelon product lines of both companies have one thing in common: every guitar has a "date" attached with the model name. 1959 or 1956 mean nothing to me and the $8,000- $9,000 mean even less. While they were in their youth, men of a certain age had a friend whose Dad had an original 1956 Strat that "looked just like this one!" They remember that experience, perhaps they started playing the guitar because of that experience, and now, many many years later, when money is no object, they have the chance to recreate that experience from their youth. To these men (if there are any women doing the same thing with the same mentality...
...women are smarter than that so nevermind...) the value in the experience of using the tools their favorite guitarists used has no price tag. Gibson and Fender do not need to innovate, they need to recreate an experience. (Barrett-Jackson taught me that.)
2a. "This what dealers do for exclusive/limited runs in fact."
I saw the JSART2 and it definitely gives the buyer the feeling of exclusivity. Each guitar is unique, each guitar specific documentation verifying authenticity. and there are only 77. Ibanez really makes the experience special with how they present the guitar. The limited runs Ibanez has recently done for dealers are a little different. First, I support the production of MIJ Ibanez 7 string guitars. (I'm not complicated.) However, what did Ibanez learn about their customers that has anything to do with building a better a guitar? Purple guitars are not better than green guitars, they just look different, flamed veneers look different than paint. Maple fretboards do sound a little different to the player, but you can buy a production model with a birdseye maple fretboard. Essentially, the limited run models are made to make the buyer feel special and they pay a premium for it. (This is actually a fairly big topic in the fields of psychiatry and psychology.)
3. I overheard a store owner discussing business with a Gibson rep. This was the year Gibson felt it was a good idea to change everything and raise prices 30%. Their conversation was completely unproductive for themselves, but the owner of the store actually captured what guitarists want from a guitar in one sentence: "Guitarists want a guitar that sounds good and is easy to play." As simple as that may sound, it's true and it is really hard for a manufacturer to consistently accomplish. It made even more sense within the context of the conversation because they were talking about the tuning ratios for the robotic tuners.
While interesting, would anybody care if they were not a feature?
Back to Fender, if they are giving the people what they want, then I can not blame them. However, here is an example of a company building something without fully understanding why. The "EBMM truss rod wheel" as I have come to call it is becoming available in more guitars from more brands. I really like that wheel! Well, Fender is using it now. On an EBMM, you can pretty much use any small but stout hex wrench, screwdriver, metal mechanical pencil, The Force, or any number of objects that make common sense. Convenience and visual clarity are the main advantages. Fender drilled the holes too small on their wheel. Most "tools" that fit are not strong enough to move the wheel without bending and the rest are too big. The visual clarity reveals the inconvenience of the design. (I watched this all unfold by the way.) A thin steel nail would probably be the best tool for the job but the guitar does not come with one for obvious reasons. Is this a huge problem? No, it should have been noticed before the guitars were produced, but it is not life or death. Would a guitarist return 4 guitars because of it? Yes, unless it is what the people want!
That's enough for now....