Agreed...I was tempted by the "new", "revamped" Sig 556xi Russian model...but then I've already seen a half dozen horrible failures of the standard 556xi in 5.56...so I'll be passing on that. Shame, they made some smart design decisions (lighter, more ambi-, shorter piston system, replaced the old sh_tty stock etc.).
If I could design a simple standard U.S. AK I'd start with the following:
-Folding AR stock as standard (menu allowing purchaser to select from a few stocks)
-Stamped receiver, no Russian optic mount (waste of weight/space)
-Include a Kreb's or similar retaining plate inside
-Include a Kreb's or similar selector switch
-Combination gas block/front sight
-Make available with excellent rugged barrels, and available in 16" or 14.5"+pinned.
-Magpul or US Palm grip
-Two stage trigger (I find the two-stage Arsenal completely fine)
-Quality Keymod or modular railed handguard up front.
-Optional railed receiver cover (ala Texas WS)
-Tromix or similarly enlarged charging handle.
-Quality finish, decent warranty.
-$1300 or so, MSRP. All completely do-able. There is no reason why this couldn't exist. It could likely be sold for even less, but I'm taking into account the current gun sales atmosphere and prices etc.
I've essentially built my two AK's as above, but see zero reasons why this couldn't all be done simply and efficiently at the factory level. Kreb's took a swing and a miss with their new VEPR based guns. High price, heavy VEPR milled body, stupid HK diopter sight set-up on the back (not a fan). Other than that, almost exactly what I think should be offered.