Quality is usually not the same at oversea plants. Yes the product is designed by Nikon and the plant is managed by Nikon but even the leader in quality control, Toyata, admits it cannot do overseas what it does in Tayota City.
On the other hand, D200 would be worth probably $400 in 4 years so we do not need it to last forever like an F5. And you cannot ask Nikon to make it in Japan and price it at $1850.
On the one hand, Thai assembly. On the other, ridiculous price. Normally, when a decent company builds a plant abroad to benefit from cheap labor, they should control the quality. In fact, it's not always the same. The BMW plant in Russia produces cars not a single bit different from those produced in Germany. The GM plant in Russia produces twenty-years-old trash with Chevy shield. My Thai-assembled D70 is in very smooth use for less then two years, and the AF system has been changed TWICE already (though at no charge), my Japanese-assembled F90x has just honestly died (estimated mileage of the broken shutter is several times more then declared resource) after many years of severe abuse, first by myself, then by children. But D200 is a consumer camera expected to become obsolete in 3-4 years, and I would not be happy to pay another thousand bucks for Japanese assembly. As for long-term investments in pro class gear, on the contrary, I would not be happy to save a thousand bucks buying a Thai-assembled F6. Seems like Nikon knows what to do (and where).
Quality control IS the key factor, because Thai and Japanese people have the save anatomy. Once more, Russian BMWs are perfect, Russian Chevrolets are garbage. As for your FE2 - it is a mechanical, manual focus camera, there is nearly nothing to fail. My grand-grandfather's pinhole camera (let's imagine I have one) is even more reliable.
George Barron says his N80 was made in Thailand and has performed perfectly for 4 years. So I've got no problem with where it is made as long as it is made well, and my N80 seems to have been well made, in Thailand.
No it is not the same - in my lifetime I used three Chevy 4*4 pickups (I am a hunter) - two Americans and one Russian. American ones were also not Mercedeses, but decent cars for their reasonable price. The Russian one was a nightmare. I even could not fix some problems properly, because in the car some non-standard parts had been used - spare parts I ordered by catalog did not fit! On the other hand, I see no difference between my two BMWs - Russian-made in Moscow and German-made in Switzerland. Quality control!
There is a lot more to it then just quality control. GM probably chooses to build cheaper vehicles in Russia to meet a certain market's expectations. Beyond quality control there is quality of design and quality of materials.
It is THE SAME model, and in Russia it is assembled from American parts, not Russian. Russian market is OK, 90% of S-Klasse Mercedeses go to Russia. The purpose of the game (to assemble cars in Russia) is to avoid customs duties, which for expensive cars exceed the original price. This protectionism is supposed to protect local producers, who, as a result, feel no need to produce something better then 20-years-old Ladas etc.
That happens a lot here. The general perception here is that US-made cars have more lemons. A very bad car requires bad day on the production line perhaps, but US quality isn't as high nor as consistent as its competitors. It doesn't surprise me that Detroit would think that selling shoddy products in Russia was a good way to boost profits.