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Roco Fleischman

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jdr3366 View Drop Down

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    Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 4:16pm
I heard this company is close to being out of business. Is that true?Confused
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Railwriter View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Railwriter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 7:01pm
The holding company that owns the Roco and Fleischmann brands recently underwent a change of ownership, along with some changes in management.  An Austrian bank now owns the majority of shares of the holding company.

I am by no means an expert in the business side of model railroading, but I do have some impressions -- from following Roco from afar.

I don't think Roco and Fleischmann are in any worse a financial situation than many of the other European model railroad manufacturers.  The business is somewhat precarious, in that producing new highly-detailed models requires a lot of investment up front -- without any guarantee of returns.

All model railroad manufacturers have struggled with trying to expand their customer base, which, for a variety of reasons, skews toward older men.  Some of these efforts have been less than successful, including Roco's "Next Generation" games.  Roco's very expensive desktop SmartRail display stand was probably also a "bridge too far" for this manufacturer, failing to sell in numbers that would have justified the investment in development of this product.

One problem is that there are still too many companies producing essentially the same models.  (For example, in some cases you can get models of the same locomotive type, in the same paint scheme, from Trix, Brawa, and Roco.  Yes, there are differences in the level of detail, but still not enough to justify three or more manufacturers investing in producing the toolings for the same model.)

Roco and Fleischmann have tried to simplify their overlapping product offerings.  The Roco digital system -- which is highly valued by most customers who are using it -- has become the default digital system for both brands.  Roco has withdrawn from N scale, leaving that to the Fleischmann brand.  Fleischmann has cut back on its HO offerings, but still appears less sure of its overall mission than Roco.

(There are a few smaller European manufacturers specializing in the railroads of some smaller European countries that offer their own start sets -- with their own rolling stock, but with Roco track and digital controls!)

I don't think that the Austrian bank that bought the majority shares of the holding company would have put its money into this business if it did not think it would get a return on that investment.

I have read some reports that the holding company had tried to sell off the Fleischmann brand, but did not find anyone interested.  Again, the (high-end) Roco HO track system is more widely known and used than that of Fleischmann -- so, it makes little sense for Fleischmann to continue to produce its own extensive HO track system.

[Meant to include this in in the initial post, but somehow it got lost in editing:  As far as I can tell, Roco is shipping new items around the announced availability dates and continues to do new production runs of older popular items.]

On another front:  I noticed that Kibri (now one of several brands owned by Viessmann) announced several items for 2017 -- which have yet to appear on the market.  I have no idea what's behind this -- and it's not that unusual for model manufacturers to miss production deadlines.  If anything, the market for structure models and similar accessories is also highly competitive, with many manufacturers (perhaps too many)  producing essentially similar structures.

-- Ernest

Edited by Railwriter - 10 Jan 2018 at 6:59am
Modeling Austrian Eras 5-6 in HO
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