ONCE UPON A TIME
"In the fad-driven fantasyland of toys, Hot Wheels has had an incredible
ride. Those pocket rockets have been racing down their familiar orange
tracks for four decades now and, unlike the real car market, show no
signs of slowing down.
Last year Hot Wheels set a record, as sales surged by 16 percent, and they continue to accelerate in 2008 even as the economy tanks. In fact, as Motown melts down, Hot Wheels is heating up. The tiny toy cars' parent company, Mattel, now has a market capitalization that surpasses General Motors. That's right—Wall Street thinks the maker of toy cars is worth more than the largest real carmaker in America."
The secret of their resurgence is the reconnecting customers with their past and finding ways to connect with their kids:
"The brand is riding a hot streak because it reconnected with little boys and their fathers. "Dads would see the old blue box and say, 'I remember those'," says Larry Wood, a former Ford designer who started penning Hot Wheels in 1969 and constituted the entire design staff for much of 1970s...
"...about three years ago, Hot Wheels returned to its roots—simple tracks that snap together quickly and fast cars that excite 5-to 8-year-old boys just coming out of their Thomas the Tank Engine years. "We were trying too hard to push the brand older," says Tim Kilpin, the Mattel senior VP who steered Hot Wheels back to basics. "We had to make it cool for the right-age boys."
What's interesting also is the strong connection between the makers of the toy cars and the real cars:
Hot Wheels takes no pleasure in Detroit's pain. "We need Detroit to
exist for us to be successful," says Walker. After all, Hot Wheels
bestsellers remain replicas of classic Detroit iron. For decades,
Motown has shared its top-secret blueprints of upcoming models with
Mattel so that the Hot Wheels and real-wheels versions could debut
That's happening again in November at the L.A. Auto Show, when Ford unveils a new design for its Mustang. As soon as the wraps come off the candy-red pony car, the journalists covering the introduction will be handed the 1/64th-scale Hot Wheels replica with a matching paint job. "It helps sell the real thing,"
It's nice to see something still working for Detroit despite it's current litany of woes.