It's a volatile time for die-cast model car manufacturers in the Australian market at the moment. The value of the dollar isn't performing well (which is a problem as all payments to overseas factories are generally in USD) production costs in China are rising, and order numbers for model cars across the board have dropped to almost unsustainable levels given factory minimum order quantities aren't getting any lower. These issues combined with your general costs of running an Australian business makes Biante a business that is driven on passion far more than it is on profits.
We pride ourselves on producing the best models we can for Australian collector's and we have been doing this since our first model was released in 1998. We also pride ourselves on providing great customer service which is why we put a lot of time into operating our various social pages and support networks where collectors can communicate with us directly whenever they want. If we didn't care about what collectors wanted then we wouldn't do this.
One of the most common questions we're asked is why we would produce a sealed body resin model V's the more traditional die-cast with opening parts model.
Before we go into this issue further we would like to make an important point. Biante are committed to producing die-cast models with opening parts wherever it's viable. It's our first preference and is evident by our 1:18 V8 Supercar range which other manufacturers have completely sealed. That being said, it's becoming harder and harder to justify the development of a die-cast model with opening parts due to the order numbers we have been receiving from collectors.
So what's the difference between the costs of developing a die-cast model V's a sealed resin model? Well, initially they're not different at all. The same amount of research and development time is taken by our team in Australia to collate all the information and details required by the factory to commence the model development. The big difference is tooling, unit costs and minimum order quantities and this is where it gets a little complicated to explain but we will try our best.
To produce a die-cast model with opening parts, a large dollar investment is required up front for the tooling. Generally this figure is more than $150,000USD but can be significantly more depending on a number of factors like the value of the dollar, time and the level of detail the end model will feature. While the upfront investment is very high, the 'per unit' cost (the money each individual model costs to be produced) comes down. On top of this, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) for die-cast opening part models are normally higher, so you have a minimum number of models the factory will produce. This is generally 1000 pieces per model run.
To produce a sealed body resin model the initial dollar investment for the mould is significantly less than a die-cast opening part model. The main reason for this is because the mould is simply a mould (not tooling) and obviously the sealed body isn't as complicated with parts. The per unit cost for a resin model however is much higher compared to a die-cast model which is why the end price collectors pay for either a die-cast model with opening parts or a sealed body resin model isn't all that different. However the MOQ for a resin model is much lower so you're not forced to produce a high number of models that you can't sell. This option gives manufacturers far more flexibility.
So in summary:
A model produced in die-cast with opening parts = high initial costs with lower model unit costs. A model produced in sealed body resin = low initial costs with higher model unit costs.
So what is our reasoning for producing one or the other? Essentially it comes down to risk and volume of models we can produce from a set of tooling. Based on the high upfront costs of producing an opening parts die-cast model we need to make a lot of models (thousands) from that tooling to make that money back let alone start to make a profit. So, models like our 1:18 V8 Supercar range or our recently newly released VN SS Group A work well for die-cast with opening parts because there are a lot of different models we can produce using that one set of tooling. This is also why collector’s will see lot’s of different colours of a road car being produced.
The models we produce in sealed body resin are generally the cars that don't have that amount of variety that we can produce from the tooling (in different colours or liveries for race cars) or are simply viewed as risky projects that can't justify the high upfront costs of producing a model in die-cast. The EL GT is a great example of this situation. Only 3 colours of that car was produced by Ford which made the sealed body resin option the only viable way this model could be made. It just wasn't economically possible to produce that model in die-cast based on only 500 orders per car, if we did then we would simply loose a ton of money.
There is still a major misconception in the Australian model market with some collectors that a resin model is a cheap and inferior product. It isn't. With the factories we use now, the quality of finishing and exterior / interior details that can be achieved all combine to make them highly collectable models and they really do look amazing on display. Some collectors even tell us that they feel insulted or ripped off when we make a model in sealed body resin which is a shame because they shouldn't feel that way if our reasons were understood, which is one of the reasons we have written this. A common argument is real collectors will pay more for an opening parts die-cast model. While this is very true for some, unfortunately there just isn't enough collectors ordering models anymore to justify the risk and high upfront costs of producing every single model in die-cast.
In the early years of the 2000s an average production run for a model was around 5000+ pieces. If we were still receiving those kind of order numbers for each model then making everything in die-cast would be an easy choice but unfortunately this is no longer the case because order numbers have dropped so much. Now we're extremely lucky if we get over 1,000 orders for the majority of models we produce. The order numbers dropped to these levels while we were still producing every 1:18 model in die-cast so it was the market that created the need for the sealed body resin option for some projects.
Australia is a very small market and there's limited interest in our models of Australian cars internationally. So if we're going to continue to develop and produce new, limited edition models for collectors then in some instances, depending on the car, we have to adapt. We can produce some new models here and there in sealed body resin or we can simply not make them at all - and if we can't make them then it's highly unlikely that they will ever be made at all. Then everyone looses and we don’t want that.
We understand the passion in this hobby and we totally get that some collectors prefer an opening parts model. Fair enough. We're run by collectors and in many cases we feel exactly the same but at the end if the day sometimes the circumstances only give us the option of producing a sealed body resin model or nothing at all. We think most collectors would prefer the option of having something rather than nothing.
We hope this has given you a better understanding of why we can't produce every model in die-cast with opening parts and continue to survive. Thanks to everyone for your continued support, we appreciate it and we will continue to do the best we can for collectors in the future.