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Keep on Truckin’: The Timeless Temptation of Toy Cars and Trucks
By Paul A. Paterson
May 1, 2003

Toy cars and trucks have been inspiring imaginations in sandboxes and playgrounds since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line nearly a hundred years ago, and their continuing status as a toy industry mainstays show no sign of wear and tear.

“The reason the vehicle category is so strong is we are always a boy’s first car,” explained Sara Rosales, Vice President of Public Relations for Mattel. “Our Matchbox toys appeal to the young boy. They’re the ones they see in everyday life—police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, mom’s car. They create their own imaginary stories. They are in control and at that point, they are not in control of much.”

Rosales notes the Hot Wheels line attracts an older boy with a developed interest in speed and power, but the experience of controlling their own play environment continues. She has an interesting way of looking at the universality of toy cars.

“There are 41 million men who grew up playing with toy cars,” she noted. “Hot Wheels is probably the world’s largest auto manufacturer.”

Over at Hasbro Inc, home of the famous Tonka line, Audrey Desimone, Director of Corporate Communications, believes the experience of playing with toy vehicles boils down to simple fun.

“Trucks let them act out a fantasy. It lets them act out by putting them in the driver’s seat,” she said. “Kids love construction trucks in action, and what kid doesn’t want to play construction in their own sandbox?”

Long a stalwart of the toy vehicle industry, Tonka’s big yellow dump truck has retained its popularity while remaining virtually unchanged for decades. Other lines that have held their level of popularity from generation to generation are rescue vehicles like police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, which Desimone believes shows the transcendent nature of heroes.

“Rescue is very popular,” she said. “Police are always a popular theme. They are always something that’s been popular with kids. These kinds of products have always been in our GI Joe line. Those types of figures are role models kids all over want to emulate.”

Every year, the companies come out with lines that mirror what major car companies produce, and licensing agreements are an important component. This allows toy companies to keep up with new releases in the automobile industry, like Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. These new releases are important, but Roy Nakamura of HotWheelsNow.com thinks their impact on the overall sales of toy cars is minor.


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