Maybe hiring a sufficiently skilled luthier would be a problem? Most of the really talented guys seem to want to work for themselves and so getting top quality guys for top quality guitars might be a bigger problem than we realise. That might be why the limited runs are, at the moment, ghost built by Sugi.
Hire more ghosts?
To be honest, I'm not sure. What I do know is an independent luthier, no matter how talented, will never have access to the same level of resources as Ibanez. If Ibanez had to outsource custom guitars to independent luthiers, providing positive incentives that grow the luthiers business would be tempting. Money helps too.
How about what Jackson did and had an internet based design program where people could mix bodies/necks/fingerboard/pickups/bridges and order it then collect it from their local dealer?
Might be an interesting way of seeing what the public actually expect Ibanez to provide them?
1. Internet? Who needs the internet?........(Well, I suppose I do in order to show you the Ibanez catalog from 1991, courtesy of ibanezrules.com and Rich's easy to navigate library of catalogs.) http://www.ibanezrules.com/catalogs/us/1991/index.htm
2. The public expects Ibanez to provide them with something to complain about.
What would also be REALLY cool is if Ibanez sold its bodies and necks online, the same way Fender does. You can part-together a new Fender from genuine, new Fender parts. Pretty cool.
Hell, I'm usually parting-together Ibby's anyway... a body from ebay... a neck from Craigslist... trem from Rich... etc. My #1 RG1527 was parted together this way. Would be cool if Ibanez sold their various body shapes in various woods, colors, etc. Same for necks.
In fact, that would totally kick ass (for someone like me, anyway).
As a side note, as I'm browsing other guitar manufacturers websites, it seems like MOST have some sort of custom shop, or semi-custom shop. So, if they're all able to make it work (financially & logistically), I'm still holding out hope that Ibanez will one day follow suit.
Maybe we should just ask for what Ibanez was doing 25 years ago....
It seems like the Ibanez U.S.A Custom Series meets many of the criteria people are asking for. How successful was that particular line of guitars? Do you think it could be successful in now? Personal experience and insight into the matter would be more valuable than speculation from "arm chair CEO's. (I include myself in this group.)"