There is a big difference between a per-unit cost of production (money paid to suppliers) and cost of operation (salaries and office space).
Let use some imaginary numbers - please don't challenge me on these numbers, as they are just examples.
Leaf sells 1,000 units per year.
Average sale price to consumer $20,000.
Average price paid to Leaf per unit by dealer $10,000.
Total revenue $10,000,000.
Let's say average cost of producing a unit is $3,000 (BTW, there is minimal difference in the production cost of a $40,000 back and a $15,000 back.)
Production: 1000*$3000 = $3,000,000
Salaries and office space for 30 people: $5,000,000
Total expenses: $8,000,000
Now let's make a 50% price reduction:
Lets say sales triple as a result of the price cut.
Cost of production goes down maybe 30% due to higher volume.
Cost of operations goes up maybe 20% due to higher volume.
Leaf sells 3,000 units per year.
Average sale price to consumer $10,000.
Average price paid to Leaf per unit by dealer $5,000.
Total revenue $15,000,000.
Average cost of producing a unit is $2,000
Production: 3000*$2000 = $6,000,000
Salaries and office space for 40 people: $6,000,000
Total expenses: $12,000,000
You are working three times as hard, and making only $1m more in profit.
Of course you could be selling now 5 times than before, and making $8m profit - but if you sell only twice as before, profit would be $0.
Negative side effects:
- Very increased exposure to fluctuations in costs, due to decreased margin. Now an earthquake in Taiwan can bring you to bankruptcy.
- Now you are taking bread out of the mouth of Canon - and they will make a move to compete and devour you. They can set up much more cost effective production lines, procurement and sales.
Regarding the actual numbers: the $2,000 numbers is a correct number for 5 years ago.
There is no way the per unit production cost today is more than $5000.
Not challenging your numbers, but I will borrow them to explain a little more where I see the risk. If medium format were competitive system wise with Nikon and Canon, or even Sonny, then, we could easy bet that lowering prices could boost the sales a lot.
Can price be at the cornerstone of the strategy? I don't know, but here are some points that make me wonder:
1. The system is not there. Hasselblad is the best, but not close to Nikon and Canon.
2. Blogs etc are invested on Nikon, Canon and to the lesser extend Pentax and Sony. They made their money from companies that make money from those brands. They need access to them, for reviews and press releases etc. The reviewers also shoot those brands, and understand them. Phase One is far better at this than Hasselblad, but is not even at the Pentax /Sigma level.
3. People have invested a lot on those brands, they have 3th party lenses etc.
4. Most people shoot multiple subjects. If you are good you can shoot action with MF anticipating the moments etc, but even as good guy with a DSLR will be competitive with you. There is software stitching if very big prints are called for. Of course MF is better for a lot of situation. Plus the big view finder, the looks and colors. But the point is DSLR are competitive and when they are better, they are way better.
5. Most people will not like to have a totally different systems. That is part of the appealing of the D800E. If Canon goes there it will be even more interesting (not for me, I do shoot Nikon).
6. Lowering the price to much could erase the competitive advantage for the working pro. That is: They will not be differentiating themselves at the camera level. (Creativity, service and technique are far more important in any case)
There are more, and in the post I am quoting, the author already talked about driving the reaction of Nikon and Canon. About point 2 please note, as an example, that the Pentax 645 did not got harsh notes about the so called "multi point focusing system". Even with the clustering of the points. Just imagine Hasselblad doing that.
Should they lower prices: Probably yes, but if they want to grow sales, they have to Up the Image quality a lot (that will do at current prices), or improve the system together with the price.