Friday, 2 September 2016
Let's Talk Cost-Cutting at Mattel: A Hot Wheels Flames '62 Chevy Truck Side-by-Side!
Think back to 1986. Or 1996. How much did a bottle of Coke cost? A McDonald's Hamburger? A gallon/liter of gasoline? Probably a heck of a lot more than it does now. The same can't be said for a Hot Wheels car. They were $1ish in 1996 and they're $1ish now. I'm not an ardent Mattel supporter by any means, but few, if any, companies can keep a product at the same price for decades. (Thanks, inflation)
I know what you diehards are going to say: 'I'd rather pay more money and keep the cars all metal.' The reality is that Mom and Pop don't care if Timmy's stocking stuffer has a plastic base or a metal base. That's why Mattel will continue to cut costs on Hot Wheels and Matchbox castings in attempts to keep them below the $1 price point. Hot Wheels only make up part of Mattel's brand portfolio and collectors are only a fraction of the Hot Wheels target market.
So, whether we like it or not, Mattel will continue to cut corners on it's $1 models. Thankfully, they've listened to us collectors and given us metal bases, premium tampo work and rubber tires for around $4.
Now that I've defended Mattel a bit, but I'm going to take a little wind out of their sails. They know collectors are suckers. Myself included. Playing on that, Mattel has cleverly introduced cost reductions to castings mid-run, and done it while castings are in 5-Packs. Not only do we buy the same model twice, but we're also forced to buy the same 5-pack twice. Talk about clever marketing.
Still don't know what I'm talking about? Take a look at the recent HW Flames 5-Pack. The first part of the run featured the '62 Chevy Truck in it's long-time format. Mattel modified the tooling to save costs, and made another wave of Flames 5-Packs with the new, cheaper casting. Why didn't Mattel put the cheap one in right off the bat?? Because we'll buy the same 5-Pack twice, won't we? I know I did.
Here's the side-by-side. New: Plastic front bumper. Plastic sunroof. No separate piece orange surfboard in the back. My thoughts? I don't like the cost cutting and I don't like to see my favorites change, but what can I do?