Home » Disney Pixar CARS

Mattel Disney Pixar CARS Diecast: Retail Disconnect

Through March, we have now had 4 cases of singles released, a couple deluxe oversize cases and at least in Europe, a Movie Moment case. We’ve also had Haulers, Toons and lots of PLANES but the retail situation is still feast …

Or famine.

WM Cars
First, there are forces beyond the apparent control of Mattel – the economic downturn plus the changing seascape of retail. Frankly, Walmart & Target are just not that interested in toys as a category that drives in customers – both are insanely fighting for  you & neighbor’s business on food, pharmacy and smartphones. So, toys like suntan lotion, Easter candy & coffee pods are important in driving in business but they just think of it as another commodity. And their business ebbs and flows from Q to Q – not an up-slope growth pattern.

So, scrolling back to March 2009. You had three big retailers plus Kmart who not just carried CARS but stocked it on a regular basis – most stores getting 2 to 5 cases – so if you’re like most Americans who live in a metro suburban area, you probably had 10 Walmart’s, Targets, TRU’s and even Kmart’s to drive in a 20-minute radius – so you had anywhere from 20 to 40 cases in your surrounding area to choose and pick from. You might not be first but you also didn’t have to be to pick up mostly what you wanted. But since then, you can pretty much drop KM from your shopping list, TRU is listing so they have cut back. With Target & Wm not caring as much, they have cut back – so instead of 10 stores with 20-40 cases, you probably have 10 stores with 5 to 10 cases available – a HUGE DIFFERENCE.

In 2009, Mattel fouled up the process by splitting the line into lenticulars and Final Lap. It confused people who wondered why Mattel was splintering the line into one line they didn’t want so much and the other one they did … but only available at one retailer in very limited quantities. It didn’t make much sense and after 5 years, it still makes very little sense to double your costs to sell 50% as much.

And in 2010, Mattel essentially stopped selling CARS 1 product about 7 months before CARS 2 came out in 2011.

And for 3 weeks, it was all great in 2011 when CARS 2 came out but for the other 30 weeks left in 2011, Mattel decided the only 4 CARS single you wanted to buy were: CARS 2 Lightning, RT Mater, Finn & Francesco.

And for nearly all of 2012, inventory languished from the CARS 2 launch of May 2011 so it was essentially a lost year.

Is it any wonder that even if Walmart & Target were still all in on toys, Mattel gave them LOTS of reasons to bail on CARS by lurching from “plan” to plan?

So, are there still 15,000 cases made of a diecast case (code)? hard to say for certain as there seems to be more shenanigans than usual. Inventory seems to move in and out of the system (they’re still in the warehouse, just not available to ship and “hidden,” from ordering systems) so it’s hard to tell what is available and in what quantity. 5 years ago, sometimes cases would drop off because they sold an extra allotment to WM but that was obvious as 8,000 WM’s suddenly got an endcap of 200 diecasts … but now, they disappear from inventory but there’s no mass quantity showing up anywhere and a few weeks later, they re-appear in inventory so … while it seems the new Super Chases are made in fewer quantities, there are definitely fewer on the shelves but are there really fewer made? It does not seem to be the case – just fewer on the pegs … for now.

Mattel’s current plan seems to be to aim at the high margin playset/trackset/larger plastic toy market – they figure instead of making $24 on selling a case of diecasts, they can make just as much selling 1 large scale talking version … or a box of trackset of 4 where Mattel “makes” $100 per store on just one trackset box … but is it really sales if it is a sale just to a retailer shelf where it sits?

Or their belief that a higher margin plastic series will take hold and make just gobs of money … Mini Adventures, Pullbacks, Color Changers, Action Agents, CARS 2 pullbacks, Charge-Ups, EMC 1:32 series (Big Lots), Quick Changers, Stunt Racer, Silver Stunt Racer, Micro Drifters, Hydro, Ripflash Racers … Yep, that’s at least 13 plastic series of planning, design, cardboard, manufacturing, shipping, and sales costs/efforts – all failures or minimal successes – in the last 5 years. Did I leave any out?

There is a listing for some plastic ice CAR that requires some sort of freezing … they might still be working out the kinks on that … will that be middling for 14?

MD Box
Mattel has reported almost $500 million of product in inventory (obviously not just CARS product) so at some point, this plan of storing product in their own warehouse is going to tip over …


So, yes, it’s hard to tell what’s going on with the RIGHT inventory as everyone is marching to their own beat … and yes, none of the players really seem to care what CONSUMERS actually want … I know, du’h, huh … they are in effect telling us, WE KNOW WHAT’S BEST … do they? Do they? DO THEY?

«  »
9 March 2014 Disney Pixar CARS 11 Comments


  • niftynigel says:

    Maybe the situation is different in different parts of the world. I can only comment from a UK point of view but there are nonetheless many things in the article that ring true across the globe. Agreed, 2012 was a disaster. Mattel struggled to release just 20 new cars in the UK. We didn’t get any of the last four singles (Fabrizio onwards) or Cartney Brakin’. Prince Wheeliam and Becky Wheelin’ were also very rare, maybe just 250 and 100 respectively, when there are supposed to be on average 2,000 of each case although this can rise to over 5,000 for cases in the lead up to Christmas! A good time to have release the ‘last four’ but Mattel messed up! They did release all the 2012 Deluxe in the UK via the bargain shops (at very cheap prices in limited numbers) when the full price stores were full of Mater/Zen!

    Both 2013 and 2014 have showed a significant improvement. Better case contents (typical 18 different cars to a case) and regular repeats of most non Chase cars rather than cramming five McQueens into one case!

    Mattel failed to release any Deluxe or Double Packs in the UK in 2013, but thankfully all 2014 Deluxe have appeared, so that’s a welcome improvement. If we get the Double Packs too, then I’d say that’s a good state of affairs. The cases are now distributed around the various major supermarket chains (ASDA/Wal-Mart, Morrison, Sainsburys and Tesco) along with the Toymaster network of independents and Smyths Toy Superstores.

    Toys R Us. They fail to stock their own RS Classics, so who knows what’s going on with them?

    In summary, after Mattel nearly killed the line, the market is bouyant. It could be better, but it could be a lot WORSE!

  • Tom says:

    Great article, Met.
    Hope Mattel will listen (not holding my breath).

  • BMW says:

    Some plastic is fantastic. Look at the play value of Siddeley the Jet Transporter. It disappeared from stores on clearance aisles, yet look at what Amazon sellers are asking for it now. I had 3, down to one. Everett to a lesser extent. These more innovative items like Screamin Banshee has had a huge rebirth. Every single one that comes up on ebay sells for fantastic prices. These are the kinds of plastic toys that make sense and children love. The track Playsets released are all too similar.

  • danrio says:

    Very nicely researched and written article !

    It pretty much sums up what I have observed (and experienced) in the Sacramento area over the past 4 – 6 months. I can also remember back to a more plentiful period when KB Toys and Kohls were significant players, too. KB is gone forever and Kohls (with their higher pricing structure, but sometimes affordable sales promotions) just isn’t interested anymore.

    And, last December, our local KMart also disappeared, adding further drought to the Cars landscape.

  • quercy says:

    Mattel, it’s simple… Do not deviate from die casts. You want to sell plastic? Do the haulers, add accessories to a repeat die cast or do big ones such as Colossus or Dr. Frankenwagon Monster having at least one die cast part in it. That is just working fine, everyone agree with that isn’t it?…. Change face expression, paint them and keep changing your cards… we will buy them ALL… Can anyone can find any Neon after one week on the shelves? And please give us a deal to your multi pack having one or NONE exclusive… I get a better price when I buy 18 eggs instead of 12… why you don’t?

    Oh, by the way keep a promo a promo…. Do not make us buying 5 cars we do not necessary need to bring back IVAN one year later… If you have left over of your poor marketing for IVAN promo just create a second wave with a good visibility this time… they won’t last.

    “Sigh”… I thought they were paying people in there to do just that… T5AD need to tell them everything ! 😉

  • John says:

    Also Quick Changers. The best of the 1:55 plastic Cars.

  • BMW says:

    Lights and Sounds was not plastic. They are heavy diecasts.
    Wish Mattel had continued the Lights and Sounds.

    Very insightful post Met.

    • John in Missouri says:

      I’m talking about the OTHER Lights & Sounds line, they were of a much larger scale:

      • Lightning McQueen
      • Barney Stormin’
      • DJ
      • Dinoco McQueen
      • Red

      • Lightning McQueen (Cars 2)
      • Finn McMissile
      • Francesco Bernoulli

      • probably others?

      (MET: I’m mostly discussing the smaller scales which are intended to be ‘mass market’ continual sellers – the large toddler sized lines tend to be one shot deals – we’ll make 10k of it at a time instead of ones intended to be an ongoing series … When I wrote Change ups, I meant to say Quick Changers so corrected … thanks).

  • John in Missouri says:

    Met you can add “Lights & Sounds” to the list of cash-grab plastic series.

  • bobbyjack says:

    I started collecting at the end of 2009, so that was a pretty nice recap of what it has been like to collect this line for the past four years.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.