Of course, if you're into Japanese trains, the story is not as bad, in fact, its prety good! Although its been eratic, over the past year Japanese trains should be about the same - if not a little cheaper (in fact, nows a pretty good time to buy Japanese trains...its like a 10% discount off of what you would pay a few months ago!):
What does this all mean? For me, its time to start exploring some of the cool trains coming from Kato, Tomix, and Microace, since my dollar goes a lot further against these than it does against comparable products from Minitrix or Fleischmann. In fact, a decently detailed Trix or Fleishcmann electric locomotive with all the modern standards for 'quality' (which would be something of recent engineering, not some 1970's rerun, These typicall feature as basic standards items such as directional lighting- increasingly LEDs; 5 pole motors with flywheels; NEM651 slot; traction on all or most wheels; etc..), like the DB Class 185, retails in USD between $130 for the Minitrix version to $200 for a Fleischmann version).
A similar type of locomotive from Kato or Tomix (another CC or 6 axle class Electric) like the EF 65, goes for around USD $65 to $70! (I'm havin gto assume that the Kato/Tomix Japanese products have similar specification - 5 pole motors, directional lighting, etc... - as both the German products listed above and the standards that Kato lists on its American products line (which are similar). Another point of reference is that I was able to get an 8 car Japanese EMU set for under $200...similar EMU's are well over $400 USD for most of the European versions.
Interestingly, Kato's European models, such as the Class 66 diesel (about $130 USD), are priced more similarly to their European competitors' products than the Japanese products are. This may be a result of the cost inefficiencies of Kato producing a much smaller production run for Europe versus its home Japanese market, but that is just speculation.
There are probably a lot of factors that I am unaware of...marketing costs, distribution costs, taxes and customs, in addition to the currency exchange issue, that go into the relative pricing of these locomotives. To be clear, the European manufacturers do offer a lot more 'advanced' capabilties with regards to making these models DCC compatible, and I'm really not technical enough to understand if their are other factors that can be explained in terms of materials or workmanship that may also explain the price differences.
Of course, there are some neat NS 1300 (Netherlands) CC Electrics coming out from a Spanish manufacturer called Star Train (which appear they will be distributed through Hobbytrain, which also does stuff with Kato and Lemke in Europe) that will promptly tempt me!