Hot Wheels should follow Nerf's lead in serving niche audiences

redlinederby Friday, 8/26/2022
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A recent question about the maximum pontential of mainline wheels & axles got me thinking about a future for better quality parts from Mattel (even if it's somewhat of a pipedream).

Until Mattel decides to target competitive diecast racing specifically, we're not going to see much change in terms of better products and QC. It just doesn't make money sense...until it does...

I look at what Hasbro has done with their ever-evolving Nerf line. What used to be just a cheap foam dart gun has turned into an armory of amazing weapons that shoot darts, balls, and now even gel bullets. The demand for "high end" Nerf has certainly become a thing over the past decade or so, even spawning an incredible modding after-market space not unlike what we've seen with our racing. But to Hasbro's credit, they're capitalizing on it and clearly think it's worth the investment.

But with higher investment comes a higher cost. Some of the fancier Nerf guns get up near $100! So the obvious question is, if Mattel decided to produce Hot Wheels products specifically for the racing market, would you be willing to pay the price?

And what price? Obviously we don't know but we can certainly make some educated guesses just looking at the higher end mainline/collector that are on the pegs.

Lets say they make a casting that is made for competitive racers with better QC on the wheels, axles, weight, and whatever else...stuff we care about...but if that single sku has a $3.00 price tag, would you buy it? $5? $10?

What's your limit on spending for a product you know is made better and can (in theory) lead to better performance on the track?


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Clint 8/26/22

It is not a pipe dreqm to want this stuff. Lego caters to several audiences. 

  • Oh, it's certainly possible but Mattel chooses not too...I'm guessing they would have done so already, or they consider the HSW/FTE catering enough. — redlinederby
  • Lego definitely made a good business decision to make specialized sets for different users. — G4DiecastRacing
  • I’d make the argument that Lego has gone a bit too far with the specialized sets. There’s a significant difference between sets for kids and sets for adults. I used to enjoy the City line, but these days it feels too simplistic and childish. Maybe I’m just getting old. — Touko

I already pay 15-30 dollars for some vintage castings so if it was heavy and fast I'd easily pay 10-20 bucks for a quality racer. 

  • So fair to say your budget is pretty high, lol :) — redlinederby
  • I agree, even some of the premium casting with NPA and wagon wheels are even a $6-8 car on the shelf — RIVERA_RACING
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Chaos_Canyon 8/26/22

I pay $10-$40 for some rides now just cause I like them. If they made racing specific ones, I'd be fine paying for them too. In NZ mainlines are usually $3NZD, then they go to $5 for the more premium and $10 for the fancier castings and up to $15 for the licensed products. I'd be ok paying $10-$20 and maybe more, if the quality was worth it, for a decent race car.

They already sell some spares for restoration right, so why not just start adding a premium racing line of accessories. Wheels that have been balanced and have round axles and holes to reduce vibration etc. And to get botht he racers and customisers, use those cooler rims that they already use on a lot of the real riders. That way, not only do you have quality and fast wheels/axles, they are obviously different to your standard mainline options.

Interesting thought.....that would be awesome!  If there were a special racing casting sold that has quality wheels and maybe extra weight like a premium metal/metal casting, I would probably pay up to $10 per car.  Especially if I can re-use the car and wheels for multiple races.  That may actually be a net saving compared to buying 10 mainline cars for $1.50 for one set of usable racing wheels.

It would be worth 20 bucks to me if it was made well, nice axels and wheels. What would be great is if they came screwed together and could be opened much easier

  • Yes! That would be a incredible if you didn't have to drill out the rivets to take it apart! — G4DiecastRacing
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H3zzard 8/27/22

(my own opinions, but based on a decade of following a range of 'foam blasting toy' items) 

The main reason that NERF (Hasbro) started to step up their game was competition from pre-existing and new companies that started making better blasters than they did (and of course, being undercut by hobbyists that began creating their own components / blasters) 

The issue that Hasbro faced was liability - if they made a product that stepped outside their target demographic of 5-12 year olds and was more powerful or 'modular' (build-it-yourself or with the ability for easy modification), they could be in trouble in the case of injury etc. That's why all of their NERF products are covered in warnings about not opening them up or changing the performance. 

The other companies and hobbyists that stepped up (and/or in some cases, simply stole Hasbro's designs!) marketed their products to older and more experienced audiences from the get-go, and embraced the idea of their products being modified. Even a few Airsoft manufacturers have altered their technology from ultra-realistic immitation firearms to 'safer' large caliber foam / gel projectiles to get their share of the market. 

But back to the point at hand... Mattel doesn't have a great deal of competition at present, so they can dictate what products exist, what products will be coming next, and how much they'll cost. 

Adult die-cast racers (not including collectors) are a tiny percentage of their demographic. Yes, they have more money to spend on products and potential 'aftermarket parts', but Mattel would have to seriously consider whether it would be worth branching out just for that audience - including new castings, fixings, accessories, track pieces, and all of the required marketing and distribution. Liability wouldn't be as much of an issue as with Hasbro (sure, kids could remove 'modular' components and eat them [solved with the 'may contain small parts' warning] ), as a mod-friendly car couldn't be launched at someone to cause injury, as with darts etc. 

We have seen Mattel acknowledge the racing community, of course. But their bread-and-butter is the creation of toy vehicles for children - if some grown-ups get their hands on them and make them better for racing, it's still money in their pocket. 

If another company stepped into the ring with their own die-cast sets that began to out-sell Hot Wheels or out-perform them in 'widely broadcast arenas' (social media, popular YouTube channels etc.), then the competition could force Mattel's hand to broaden their appeal. 

But presently, die-cast modification and track creation is in the hands of enthusiasts and a few home-made companies around the globe - and they're making money and encouraging innovation! 

  • Very fair analysis...competition would definitely drive investment. — redlinederby

A company in Puerto Rico did just this, Tiger Wheels. Metal on metal, removeable screws, removeable molded weights, detailed cars and interiors, NPA axles, Johnny Lightning style wheels with "racer's edge" and snap in center caps. Sold for about $20 at the time. Good luck trying to find any today though. 

I think we all believe our hobby is this huge group of people looking to buy Mattel Diecast cars but the reality is we are a very small percentage of Mattel's customers. When I was at the Hot Wheels convention in North Carolina this past March the place was not full of kids or adult diecast racers, it was full of collectors. The limited edition cars, (usually only 3000-5000 made), that were available for purchase with a ticket could be bought for $40 and immediately turned around and sold to a collector or sold on EBay for 100-200 dollars. Also we were racing cars in one of the hotel rooms and a few Hot Wheels designers stopped by and were shocked that adults spent time racing cars. They had no idea our little community existed. Hopefully we brought some attention to that but still there might be only a couple thousand of us that exist at any given time so unless something changes, I don't see Mattel catering to our hobby anytime soon.

  • The hotel room thing at diecast conventions is very odd to me. It was bad enough seeing collectors sell their cars in a room let alone racing in one. It doesn't help the image of diecast collectors/racers at all. — redlinederby
  • What image would that be? Having harmless fun with guys from all over the country? I’m not sure I understand. — BlueLineRacing
  • Yeah I am not following your reasoning at all. What is wrong with actually racing in the hotel room? I find it more odd that people want to keep all this stuff carded and talk about all the high end dollar stuff that really doesn’t sell like a pile of older mainlines. At about all of the toy shows and Diecast shows that I attend, these guys set up stuff but very rarely do I see these high end pieces move but get a guy that has 3 tables of older mainlines for sell and that is where you see money being exchanged. I say any racing at the convention is good! — DXPRacing
  • Image? The image that comes to mind when I think of the typical diecast collector is that of a 55 year old man, 2014 mustard stained convention shirt, 44oz Dr Pepper from Speedway, an Instagram handle of diecast_dreamer_69…and a Hot Wheels logo on fire as his profile pic. There is small group of diecast racers that are actually fast, and 90% of them were in that hotel room in Charlotte. We were at the convention to both hunt for fast stock cars, and fellowship, with the small community of racers that are truly competitive. If racing in a room with law enforcement, business entrepreneurs and we’ll traveled veterans is a bad image…screw the image. We ARE the new image, probably should settle in and get used to it. — Commotion_Diecast
  • Sorry, bad's not the image of the people or the activities, it's the image of the organization/operation of the convention. When I went to my first, I was expecting a large exhibit hall(s) where guys had tables selling stuff, like any other toy show or con - Star Wars, Origins, Power-Con, etc. I was not expecting to go room-to-room seeing people's personal effects hanging out amongst all the Hot Wheels. I agree, racing in any form is *great* and hanging out with folks is the best part, but if I'm going to tell friends and casual HW fans to come to a convention, they're not expecting to have to traverse an entire hotel. — redlinederby
  • I myself have been attending these conventions for about 30 years now. These Conventions are not funded by Mattel in any way. Mattel does donate thousands of dollars in Prototype Hotwheel Castings and very limited stuff to the convention staff/host where then it is auctioned off and money is raised for The MAKE-A-WISH Foundation along with several other events that the Convention offers to their attendees as well. The Convention Staff along with the attendees raise from 100K up to 200K each convention and donates that money to charity. They also look at what's going on in the collecting community in order to see what castings are hot and what casting with fit the location of the Convention as well. I myself spend about $3000 in order to go to last years National Convention in North Carolina. $1000 in Airfare $1500 in hotel Fees for 10 days and $1000 for a rental car and that's not including food and drinks. So Why Bring This UP? I bring it up because there's a reason why the convention host allows you to buy more than one car the convention, In order to sell the extras and help pay for your trip. This is a known fact with pretty much every attendee.... That doesn't mean you have to sell them but that what people do. I wouldnt attend all of the ones i attended if i wasn't able to buy extras to sell, because I couldn't afford it. If you havent spent the whole week at a Convention then you need too. Going 1 or 2 days isn't gonna give you the full experience! — RIVERA_RACING
  • I understand the motel room stuff, personally. If I'm a seller/vendor, I don't want to pack my stuff away every evening and then put it back out everay morning. By being in a motel room, its like going to someone's small shop. So the seller/vendor sets his items out, collects the money and replinshes what he has all from the insides of his/her motel/hotel room. As for racing in a motel room, I really don't see any harm in that. A bunch of guys/girls who live far apart meet at a convention and are now face to face when before they were just phone calls/texts or comments on youtube racing channels. They bring their racers and race. They don't have the money to rent out a convention room to race after buying airfare and hotel room fees. So they git in a room and race. It's camaraderie between them all and its good clean fun. Nothing wrong with that. Its also good memories. So for not liking the sellers or the races happening in a hotel room at the convention is beyond me. — PoBoy_Racing
  • Too bad the convention won't let you simply set up a drag track along one wall and just race there. THAT would get some attention. — SpyDude
  • @SpyDude - That's what I'm getting at. If we as a niche hobby want to grow/expand, experiences like conventions need to be accessible and line up with what people see elsewhere. We need to think about the casual fans too. — redlinederby

I've had this thought many times. I think for the $5-6 range of what a premium casting costs, they could put out an all-metal car, with FTE-type axles/wheels and skip the Real Riders. Just that alone would be significantly faster than a stock mainline and would be a good starting platform for a custom race car. 

I do think that the racing community is just too small right now. It's not worth them creating a new line of cars to appeal to 1000 racers. HOWEVER, you start building these and add in treasure hunts and super treasure hunts and ALL hot wheels collectors will still want them. Which is a HUGE market. 

  • It would be cool if they would just do a couple of years where premiums did not come with real riders, but with FTE wheels and axels instead. That would be worth a 8-10 dollar premium price to me. — ChaseFamilyRacing
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redlinederby 8/28/22
Site manager

Our community is very small, that's not a surprise to anyone. And competition is always a good motivator, but it's just unfortunate that Mattel would rather wait & follow than be a leader. They could certainly establish a racing line and everyone would jump on board - all of us and a lot of new people that would come on if for no other reason than Mattel says you should.'s interesting seeing what the budget is for the group when it comes to racing. My interest in asking was just seeing if people would bite for a racing-only line if the prices were at a premium. Clearly y'all would without batting an eyelash :) 

  • We are a mere blink in there eyes. There are catering to the whole world not a small community. — RIVERA_RACING
  • We are a mere blink in there eyes. There are catering to the whole world not a small community. — RIVERA_RACING
  • We are a mere blink in there eyes. There are catering to the whole world not a small community. — RIVERA_RACING
  • Well, sure, of course, but other brands like Lego and Nerf prove there is a market and money to be made in smaller communities of fans, that's all. Just wondering and dreaming, man... — redlinederby
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redlinederby 8/28/22
Site manager

Thinking about Lego and some of the other brands that do the "vote with pre-orders" type stuff...wonder if that would work with Mattel/Hot Wheels? Basically Kickstarter-esque approach where they design and engineer the product but don't go into mass production until they reach so many pre-orders or HasLab and the Unicron toy. If they pitched a casting made for racing with all the trimmings but said it won't be available until they got 100,000 preorders at $10 a pop, I bet that would speak volumes...?? I'd hope, anyway.

  • I myself is about to buy a cool nerf gun, I've been looking into them. every now and then we have shoot rubber bands at eachother at work and a few people brought nerf guns, so I might as well jump in the fun! — RIVERA_RACING

Great topic! Just as the private modifications of the nerf guns is what it took for hasbro to take notice; i think it would take the same with diecast racing. 
I would be more intrested in a company that made and sold components specifically for racing. Wheel and Axle sets, bases, and weights designed to fit into shells etc. That'd be cool. 

  • This is a good idea. — Numbskull
  • That would be great! I'd also like to see someone that I could send cars to that would drill out,tap, and screw them back together for you. Thats the worst part for me since I suck at it and my eyes are not great anymore — ChaseFamilyRacing

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