When many of us in this hobby think about small trains, Marklin and Z scale really are synonymous. In the past couple of years though, there were financial issues with Marklin including a 2009 insolvency filing in Göppingen, Germany.
Companies (and countries) around the world had major financial issues after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, so a model train company having its own issues wasn’t exactly leading the nightly news.
For the bits of cast metal, plastic, wiring and paint they are, we really do have an emotional attachment to these trains. Given that Marklin dates back to the late 1800s, many of us in Z scale also attach an old-world quality to our Marklin trains, even though Marklin introduced Z scale in 1972.
Model rail enthusiasts see their trains as much more than just simple toys, they’re a symbol and reminder of simpler (and maybe better) times, or maybe that’s just how we choose to view them, that’s ok too. In any case, Marklin was hobbled during this rough financial period and many still question if they’ll be back prominently in Z scale the way they once were and as important, will they really address the US market?
We now have amazing North American trains from companies like Micro-Trains Line and American Z Line, but I have to admit, I miss having Marklin in the mix.
In 2012, Marklin did release their Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive in Tuscan red, but there was a real lack of fanfare for this amazing locomotive. Just recently, Marklin has released a NYC & Hudson 4-6-0 loco with an equally surprising lack of promotion. I had heard Marklin was going to focus on their European market first after their financial problems, but as long as they’re releasing these very US-centric locomotives, why not make some noise in the US Z scale market?
I decided to ask this very question to Juergen Faulhaber, Mini-Club Product Manager at Marklin, recently and he was gracious enough to let Ztrains print his response.
Juergen Faulhaber, Marklin Mini-Club Product Manager
Basically I understand your, and the US Z scale customer, point of view. Yes, it must look as Maerklin has almost given up the US market but there are several responsible points for this situation!
During the last 3 years, we’ve had a very hard phase to “find ourselves”. We’ve had several quality problems due to our former supplier problems. Then we started to move the whole Z scale production line to our plant in Hungary with a real long-term learning phase for the people there. This was a real big challenge and now it seems we’ve succeeded. The quality is much better than it was for several months and now we have very good and really satisfying responses from the customer side.
So first of all we had to concentrate on our main market with our new items in order to raise the turnover numbers, and fight us back to our customers here (in Europe). This was much easier on the German / Central European market than in the competitive US market. At the present, we’ve improved a lot, not only the quality as well the outlook of our locos and some minor innovations. Further, I think we’ve created a new standard for steam locos here with our BR 001 (88010). As a result, now the numbers are raising here in Europe and we are really very happy about this.
Nevertheless, you can be sure we are still interested in the growing US marketplace. At the present, we are thinking about various possibilities to place more advertising for our present Z scale product range. As you mentioned we have a rather small American program this year based on existing models and we have to find a way to present at least this to our US customers!
But to be honest, in my opinion at the present it´s too early for us with a complete new developed US model, although I wish to have one. We firstly have to finish our “homework” here in Germany and Europe.
Please give us more time to “come back” to the highly interested US market, we can only do this step by step, since our Z scale unit is not as big as it probably seems to be.
Hope you will understand and best regards.
I model Z scale so I suppose by nature I’m an optimist, on this note I sincerely hope Marklin is able to focus on the US market in the not too distant future. Thanks to Juergen Faulhaber for addressing our readers and we hope to hear from him, and Marklin, again soon.