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  • I know nothing about running a business, but...

    Why are slot cars produced in such limited numbers? I'm not a collector/racer, only doing the occasional scratch-build, so this question comes from the viewpoint of a disinterested third party. It seems like even the bigger companies such as Scalextric and Carrera make enough to maybe fill the pre-orders plus a few extra, and that's it. Then they disappear. Once the hard work of making the molds is done, why don't the models stay in the active catalog? After the initial release, even offering them as a white car would extend sales. I realize the market isn't what it was in the Golden Age, but it still seems like they're leaving money on the table. What gives?

  • #2
    I'm sure they have to contract with their Asian suppliers for a certain number at a time. Not like they can ask for a run of 10. So they often wind up with models that exist in the pipeline for *years*, and others that are gone very quickly.

    When I first entered this hobby 13 years ago, Carrera offered several 997 Porsche models. They just stopped using that mold *last year*, even though the real world cars being modelled had actually changed a bit since then. Note: the changes don't bother me much- I am not a rivet counter. But I'd say they got their money's worth out of that particular mold. They knew any model they brought out would sell out in the German market.

    On the other hand, I bought at least one of each of their CanAm models (the McLaren, Lola, and 917/30) from 10 or so years ago. If I search, I can probably still find some of these available from my usual retailers. They just didn't sell, and no new versions have been released in years.
    Last edited by b.yingling; May 8, 2020, 05:58 PM.

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    • #3
      Sounds reasonable. I'm sure they sometimes wish they'd made more, sometimes less. I've just noticed that especially for the American car models, you may not get one if you don't pre-order.

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      • #4
        As someone who is in the hobby industry, here's my basic take. There is simply a finite market, and, with production costs being so high, in most cases I'd rather sell, say 500 of something pretty quickly vs 650 over many years. If a manufacturer takes the "urgency" out a purchase, sometimes that stuff will just sit there forever, because a potential buyer is thinking, "Ah, I won't order that today. That is not a limited run so I'll get that maybe later down the road." And then something else new comes out and something else new etc until finally that potential purchase is pretty far down the wish list.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bdsharp View Post
          I've just noticed that especially for the American car models,
          Cars that raced or were sold in the U.S. are the cars that sell the best in the U.S. Unfortunately, the U.S. is a very tiny slice of the Carrera and Scalextric marketplace. So they tend not to over-produce those models. Although Carrera, for one, had COTs in the pipeline for *years*, just like the CanAm models. They even had a white kit.

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          • #6
            The COT's selling well is surprising considering they are hated, but the uptick in value is also seen in the 1/64 scale market.

            Then again, NASCAR cars being so similar in the first place make a pretty good IROC class, regardless of year, and there are generally enough different schemes to make 2 or 3 different liveries on one mold. And due to their simpler shape compared to most sports cars, making your own livery was likely pretty easy compared to say an LMP or open wheel car, which combined with the potential for close competition in a box-stock setting probably led to them being as popular as they were, despite NASCAR being a niche American sport of "drunk rednecks watching other rednecks drive in circles"

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            • #7
              I'll take a crack at this. Long ago I got to play in the real world of injection molding for a number of years, and it probably hasn't changed all that much. What should be different today is designing molds on computers is way easier and cheaper than it used to be, and CNC equipment can take those design files and turn them into real production molds with very little human input. In other words, creating molds is much easier and cheaper than in the days of yore.

              A big decision in my day was whether to produce 'soft' molds or 'hard' molds. Soft molds could be made out of aluminum, and could be used to produce dozens of parts for test and evaluation. They were much cheaper than hard molds -- molds that were made out of tool steel that was soft enough to cut easily, but, once cut to shape, could be hardened. Those hard molds could then be used to produce tens of thousands of parts.

              It was common practice to make one or more soft molds while developing a complex part. At some point folks would have done enough testing and development to be willing to 'freeze' the design, swallow hard, and commit to building a hard mold. It was a big money decision and more than a little risky.

              My guess is that these days soft molds can be surface-treated so that they'll last long enough to produce a few hundred parts. And sometimes that will be enough. You can get by with cheap, throw-away soft tooling if you are only planning on a short production run. And short production runs of slot car bodies may be all you want, because a car that is popular today might not be popular for long.

              If, for some reason, a particular car body turns out to be popular, but the mold is worn out, you can send the design files back to the mold shop and have them CNC another soft tool. Ain't that big a deal these days.

              Look, I'm speculating here. I'd welcome somebody who has more recent experience to give us the real low-down. I wouldn't take offense, even if it turns out I am completely out to lunch. I'm always happy to learn.

              Ed Bianchi

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              • mattb
                mattb commented
                Editing a comment
                Good info Ed. I know a lot of work is done in China now and I guess cost wise it beats the rest of the world. With scanners and cnc machines, mold cost must be very cheap compared to the past. Of course the initial equipment isn't cheap.

            • #8
              My company used to make plastic additives, like UV stabilizers, in order to test those we had injection molding equipment. The additive would be mixed with plastic pellets, melted and injection molded to make dog bones and discs that were tested in various ways. Among other things we had an Instron press for determining tensile strength and a Weatherometer for testing the effects of heat, humidity and UV light.
              Here is what the tooling for a body looks like, there are a number of movable parts.



              I am told that there is a limit to how many bodies that can be made before the mold becomes unusable.
              I believe that Scalextric has its own plant in China, most other brands probably use contractors to make their stuff. A company that has to rely on contractors is more likely to run into scheduling and quality control problems.
              I did study economics in college. Unsold inventory is actually a liability, it costs money to produce, store and distribute and only becomes an asset when it gets sold at a profit. A warehouse full of stuff that might eventually be sold is only potentially profitable, the same goes for things on a dealer's shelf. If you consider other ways that the same amount of money might have been invested having a lot of inventory is like having a big bank account that does not pay interest. A local hobby shop owner told me that his inventory cost him a quarter of a million dollars.
              The companies that produce slot cars are rather small, so they must pick their shots with great care.

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              • Dave Kennedy
                Dave Kennedy commented
                Editing a comment
                No slot company "has it's own plant" in China, that's incorrect. They all share some of the same 3 (or so) production facilities.

            • #9
              Originally posted by bdsharp View Post
              Why are slot cars produced in such limited numbers? I'm not a collector/racer, only doing the occasional scratch-build, so this question comes from the viewpoint of a disinterested third party. It seems like even the bigger companies such as Scalextric and Carrera make enough to maybe fill the pre-orders plus a few extra, and that's it. Then they disappear. Once the hard work of making the molds is done, why don't the models stay in the active catalog? After the initial release, even offering them as a white car would extend sales. I realize the market isn't what it was in the Golden Age, but it still seems like they're leaving money on the table. What gives?
              Because that's the size of the market. A good car will sell maybe 1500 pieces in a year. White body cars don't sell really at all. VERY low numbers of white body cars sell... very low.
              Nearly no slot company does "another run" of cars, once a car is produced that's it. There's normally 1 production run of a specific livery and that's it.
              They make more cars than to fill preorders... many, many more. They make enough to sell out within about 18 months and that's normally how long it takes for a car to sell out.
              Slot Car Nerd/Photographer/ Just a self-styled marketing guy on my back porch.
              Check out my YouTube channel for weekly slot car news

              Comment


              • #10
                All good answers. I guess the trick is to accurately estimate how many will sell in 18 months.

                And it makes me think of the 1/25 model kits that a lot of us built in the 60s and 70s. (The last one I bought retailed for $2.25, and those little bottles of Testor's enamel were 15 cents.) But I really took them for granted. Before CAD/CAM, what must have it been like to do the scaling by hand and produce that tooling? Remarkable that it happened at all.

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                • #11
                  Originally posted by Dave Kennedy View Post

                  Because that's the size of the market. A good car will sell maybe 1500 pieces in a year. White body cars don't sell really at all. VERY low numbers of white body cars sell... very low.
                  Wow 1500 a year... and that's a good number? That is sobering to think about.This hobby is even smaller than I thought.
                  Randy

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                  • #12
                    Dave K, Can you tell us what the production run was/is for the monte carlo, thunderbird and the new IROC camaro? This is a car that sells mainly in USA.
                    What is the production run for say a Bently or Aston Martin that would sell all over the world?
                    is that run including the different liveries that show up 1 yr after initial release?

                    I understand if you cannot release that info. we can assume 1500
                    We are a very small group . and a small part of the Hornby company.
                    Lance Sofa racer

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                    • #13
                      I'm sorry but I won't discuss exact numbers for that specific company as it might be seen as mentioning proprietary information.

                      When i worked for SCX years ago we made a minimum run of the digital versions of the Cudas. As far as i can remember we did about 500 of each of them. I believe the number for the analog versions of the Cuda was about 750 each or 1000 each.

                      When I worked for Carrera we'd have to take a "whole run" of a US-specific car and that was at least 1500 pieces.
                      A "run" of a car was a specific livery... so one car was run once and that's it. Of all the company's I've worked for an have had contact with (which is most of the industry) this is typical. Cars are run once... that's it.
                      The best selling set was the Fast Classics set that we did with the Cobra and Mustang (white/blue) which we sold over 1000 pieces of a set and then we sold an entire run of the set to I think it was Great Plains distributors and they struggled to sell another 1000 pieces of it.

                      The hobby is FAR, FAR smaller and any hobbyist would like to think... some of the smaller manufacturer's distributors bring in only a few hundred pieces of each new car. So there may be as little as 200 pieces of a car brought in for the entire US market for some of the hobbyist brands of cars for each livery.

                      Slot Car Nerd/Photographer/ Just a self-styled marketing guy on my back porch.
                      Check out my YouTube channel for weekly slot car news

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                      • #14
                        Many enthusiasts hate to admit how small the slot car hobby is. The HO or maybe home 1/32 crowd is probably 90% of the total. 1/24 commercial racing is so small that it's just a blip on the radar. Guys like to talk about how to grow 1/24 commercial racing . My feeling is you can put a fork in it, but guys like to pretend that there is some new way to market or publicize 1/24 and it can grow again. That's nonsense, but they can dream. Guys like on this forum are the only bright spot for the future of slot racing and as noted, the market is pretty small.


                        Having said that, it is still much better than it was in the 80's. I still don't think there is much room for any new kind of track (Policar or that fancy track with the slot inserts), but at least for our future 1/32 will be a viable slot racing hobby. Being I'm a 1/24 home racer, I can see they day when I would switch to 1/32 and smaller, landscaped track.
                        Matt B
                        So. In
                        Crashers

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                        • #15
                          I have had the benefit of hearing Dave talking about this very subject in person, and again on HRW (how many times? you're a good guy, Dave- you resist giving boiler plate answers to the same questions). That said, there is something I always wondered about, and since it is so trivial I just never looked into it, so Dave, save me the research... What on earth was Carrera thinking when they did that club car years ago, a Dodge Charger Daytona painted to look like a Space Shuttle? Or for that matter, that insane Pinkcar Nazimobile full of smiling Arians? Seriously, this isn't like Scalextric not noticing the obvious difference between a tunnel window and an aerodynamic one, or putting the wrong wheels on a car, or Monogram-Revell making a field of cars that dragged their spur gear on the track, those are just errors. Why produce a car that is an obvious turkey? Feel free to be snarky as you please- this subject deserves it.

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