Why do expensive guitars not come with cases anymore?
This is a fair question to ask.
First I'll say that some companies still do include the case with their upper-end guitars. The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster does include a deluxe molded hardshell case. That's not the one seen above. Tweed guitar cases are actually quite affordable these days when bought separately.
However, the question to be answered here is why several expensive guitars don't come with cases at all.
These are the reasons why:
1. It's not part of the guitar building process
The guitar case has absolutely nothing to do with the construction of the guitar itself. Guitar companies really don't want to dedicate any part of the manufacturing plant just for cases when the guitar is the product.
2. It's not a selling point for something mass-produced
For "custom shop" instruments, sure, you want that case because it's part of the overall presentation of what you're buying.
However, for a run-of-the-mill guitar that's just like 5,000 other guitars out there that are built exactly the same, do you really want the case?
You probably just said "YES!" Rethink that. You really don't, because it would add $250 or more to the price. For a box. A non-special, plain box that's not collectible at all.
You've seen the tweed options above. Did you know that you can get cases with TSA latches that are approved for air travel (something very few guitar companies offer)?
Do you still really want that box from the guitar company now for your mass-produced instrument when you could get that? I didn't think so.
3. Guitar companies don't make money from cases
This is ultimately the reason why several guitar companies don't bother with cases. From a business perspective, everything about including a hardshell case is bad. Cost to source the case, extra cost to ship the guitar in a case (prep, sizing, weight, etc.), and so on. It's all about cost. Guitar companies want to make money and not spend it.
To put this in perspective, you may have noticed the Fender American Performer Stratocaster is a whopping $300 less than the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster. Yes, the Am Pro II has higher grade electronics and such, but the fundamental reason for the higher price is that it comes with a hardshell case whereas the Performer does not (the Performer comes with a gig bag).
You are better off buying the case separately and detaching your emotions from it
Guitar buyers all want that "custom shop experience". You're not going to get that with a mass-produced instrument, so if the guitar doesn't come with a branded box, it's best not to get emotional about it.
The blunt truth is that you will get a better guitar case if you buy it separately. And believe me, I am not hurting any guitar company's sales by saying this because they really do not want to make cases to begin with.
You can get your black tolex, tweed or molded case for a very decent price. Or, you can opt to get a case with TSA latches that's approved for air travel. All the options are there, and for a price better than the guitar company can offer since there is less markup involved.
On a final note, what is the best guitar case? It's not a case. It's a waterproof padded gig bag. Out of every single case option you can possibly think of, that's the most useful. Cheap and readily available. Heck, even Fender makes a tweed gig bag. That one isn't waterproof, but if you want Fender-branded tweed for a low price (low for Fender, that is), well, there you go.