The Matchbox team sure gets a lot of grief. The short answers the team has provided on the last few Ambassador Reports has been met with a lot of criticism. Comments from readers like “I will take my money elsewhere” and “now I can just focus on (name other brand here)”.
That is totally fine, and yes, some of the answers do seem a bit blunt. But considering the all-out assault the design team has had focused on them for the last few years, it is a miracle they still answer questions.
Based on the comments many of you make in the Ambassador Reports, you assume the Matchbox designers get together in the morning and in a completely autonomous fashion make decisions on what goes into the line. That could not be further from the truth. Decisions are made by many teams considering many factors. Marketing, production, accounting, design, and many other departments are all in on the process. We don’t know how all those decisions are made, as we don’t work there, but let’s just say that the opinions of collectors are not the highest priority. And frankly, it should be that way. Mattel does what it does, and we decide whether we want to collect it or not.
But we have made that argument many times before. It is not to say we don’t have opinions on how they do things. We do. Some stronger than others, but that is just what they are: opinions.
But when it comes to the answers to collector questions, let’s look at things in a different perspective. If you haven’t noticed, Mattel is put down the clamp on how they communicate with collectors. Any HWC or RLC member will tell you that the design team has stopped any and all communication in the HWC forum. Occasionally someone will ask a question, start a poll, or communicate some release dates, but any interaction that they used to have is no more. There are a lot of reasons for that, some that we are aware of, and plenty we aren’t.
Yet as Hot Wheels has gone silent, the Matchbox team continues to answer questions. You may not like the answers, and you may think them blunt or vague, but they have to be. The Matchbox Ambassador position is a Mattel-appointed position. The Matchbox team selects a collector every year to hold that position for 12 months, and that choice is ultimately approved by the VP of Wheels, Felix Holst. That collector for the next year is able to stay in contact with the design team and pass on info to collectors.
The Ambassador program is in its 9th year, and things at Mattel have changed quite a bit during that time. As we mentioned earlier, info is not as forthcoming as it once was, yet the Matchbox team is diligent about getting info to collectors every week, and go even further by answering questions. They may not be the answers you are looking for, but considering the answers essentially are official Mattel statements, they have to be very careful what they say. You would probably agree that being the focus of collector’s wrath is much better than being on the radar of your company’s legal department.
And on top of that, the personal attacks this team has had to endure about what they do for a living is frankly inexcusable. Opinions are always welcome, but attacks are not. That has died down quite a bit in the last year, but at its high point it was pretty awful. The fact that the team still puts itself out there after that is pretty amazing.
So what is our point?
The point is the designers themselves are very aware of collectors. They read our opinions, they listen to us at meetings. They are happy when we like something they have done. They share many of our same opinions and passions for certain cars and castings. Yet they have to do things the way they are instructed to, as that is what they are paid to do.
But they will still throw collectors a bone when they can. While not as prevalent as they once were, there are collector-aimed models in the mainline, like the Seagrave, Buick Century, and BMW 1M. And if you look at the 9-packs, you will see that they are doing the same there as well. 8 of the models might be pulled from the mainline and 5-packs, but look at the exclusives: Cadillac Sedan DeVille, ’69 Camaro, Lamborghini Muira, Porsche 914, and more. Each is like a little love note to collectors passed under the table.
And the same goes for the latest two, the Morgan Aeromax and ’55 Ford F-100 Panel in Fire Chief livery.
We have already talked enough today, but these two are fantastic. The Morgan is one of our favorite Matchbox castings, a perfectly executed casting of a very unique, obscure, and seriously cool-looking British car. And the ’55 Ford looks great in its nostalgic fire livery, and would sit nicely next to the Seagrave. We should take those pics someday.
Needless to say, we would love to see more realistic castings in the Matchbox line like we saw a few years ago. Maybe it will happen. We have heard inklings that we might be slowly headed in that direction. But the team are car nerds like we are. Yeah, the answers could be better, but cut them some slack. At least they are communicating…
Matchbox ’55 Ford F-100 Delivery Panel & Morgan Aeromax (2014 9-pack exclusive):
side-by-side with the first edition:
2009 Best of British
2014 9-pack exclusive