The US companies aren't selling out, they're adapting. If you can't build an Epiphone in the US to sell at the $799 price point it has to, you have to build it where you can. Same for every builder.
Let me define SELLOUT as I see it. It is a questionable word choice for what I meant. SELLOUT is taking an iconic American brand and telling the public (through marketing of course) that they need to build a line of guitars in the orient to "compete" with cheap orient production guitars like Ibby, ESP, etc. They won't phrase it that way but that's it.
What that says to me is that Asian guitars are cheap in terms of price AND cheaply made...almost comes across like "if you want cheap we will give you cheap so we can stay in business". There has never been anything overtly cheap about a Japanese made guitar...or knife, or what have you.
The reality is that Asian guitars, especially the top tier stuff, is MILES above what most guitar makers can make in any country and few folks will admit that. There are exceptions, no doubt. But to do it on the scale that they do is quite impressive compared to guy that makes 20 nice guitars a year. Those 20 will not play or sound any better to 99% of the folks on this planet that buy a Japanese guitar.
Like you said, it is to stay in business. I get it. The irony is that it has taken years for these American overseas builds to have any consistent quality to them. At first they were just to be cheap and capitalize on the G or F shaped bodies...(I don't mean the Jap fenders...those were actually on par with American IMHO). Those shapes sell. But quite frankly brands like Agile took a bite out of the pie and have the big boys scrambling.
Why not stick your nads out there and say "WE ARE GIBSON. WE INVENTED ROCK. We make the finest guitars in the world and they are American made, period."
That would never fly because they are riding their own glory day coattails when the competition was two main companies. They haven't had an original thought in 40years and need to stay in business by moving production elsewhere for the bulk of what sells...and they still rehash the same old designs with PAF pickup clones.
Now we compete with the orient in their own game instead of leading from the front. Times are a changing for sure, and the younger generations don't look at the VALUE of a quality made thing like I do. Face it, you need 1-3 guitars to cover all the bases. One great guitar will last a lifetime, just like one great knife of fine steel you can resharpen. But disposable attitude is just that, everything is disposable (except income-- unless it's from someone else!) and guitars are not an exception.
So the SELLOUT I mention is unavoidable and needed. If we all bought just one good guitar, the business comes to a grinding halt. It just galls me, the premise under which they advertise; trying to remain stoic American icons while transacting in yen an yuan 95% of the time...and acting like America has no equal. In terms of many things, especially freedom, America will NEVER have an equal But we sure as hell do when it comes to guitars.