I haven't quite figured this out yet, but apparently somebody has decided there is a market for it, most likely in Japan. We tend to forget that the bulk of Tamiya's kits play to the home markets and not foreigners.
The British market was assessed recently by Tamiya as so poor, for example, that they were moving to drop imports. Needless to say that rumor (no matter what the validity) sent ripples out in the UK.
All that aside, with the current popularity of 1/48 aircraft my guess is that somebody in marketing made a "2 + 2 = 4" equation and went for it. Bandai did it in the early 1970s to see if they could garner a market niche and, while it was one of the grander efforts, eventually failed at it. A shame, as the kits were cheaper (and better) than anything else on the market at the time.
As for duking it out, I talk to all of these folks and they go where they see the market being, not where we would like them to go. I keep arguing for new
1/35 US halftracks and a new series of Centurions but to no avail so far.