by Julian Wong
It’s the toy section of a top departmental store and in one spot is a gathering of gregarious boys and their keenly on-looking fathers and indifferent mothers. As you walk up closer, boys from the pack scramble past you to get first use of the nearest power socket to juice up their NiMh and NiCds. Just steps more, you here the whirring of mini wheels and the buzzing of motors, and you also see a spiraling toy car race track. At that moment, a fast plastic object whizzes past and misses grazing you by a whisker. Tamiya Mini-4WD? Even the logo and on the track looks like it.. Yet, on a double take, while it is in radiant red and sky blue, it bears the image of not two stars, but two diamonds. In spite of the disparity, the rest of the cars on the track blaze along no slower than the real McCoy…
You then realise that the two are indeed two very different things, and the reds and blues are in different shades. Doubt does not disappear. With both companies having a substantial vested interest in the Mini-4WD 1/32 scale race car market, Auldey’s logo resemblance can only seem deliberate and mock-ish.
The face of the matter is that back in 1982, Tamiya Co. of Japan pioneered Mini-4WD on the concept of stripping off the radio controls and directional features on their already-popular remote control cars, and shrinking them down to 1/32. Then, following the two cult anime series of Dash! Yonkuro and Bakusou Let’s & Go – both by publishing house Shogakukan (on Tamiya Co.’s commission), Tamiya’s Mini-4WDs shot to best-seller stardom and became a component of every boy’s schoolbag.
Seeing Tamiya’s success, Auldey jumped on the Mini-4WD bandwagon and initially became a blatantly cheaper alternative to the pioneer, with a slew of upgrade parts that were cross-company-compatible. There has also been complaints that this China-made alternative were made to inferior standards, with the main complaint being that parts made were brittle. Nonetheless, they sold well in developing countries fueled by the craze ensuing the cartoon series and their greater affordability.
It wasn’t until Auldey’s “Flash & Dash” comic and cartoon series began international circulation that Auldey boldly walked out of the “bootlegged Tamiya car” shadow. Bolstered by the supportive consumer market of China, Auldey is now the World’s Second Largest Maker of Mini-4WD Cars, ahead of the more established but premium brand, Okami. Auldey also proved their mettle in the Yo-Yo niche, with a similar child-media marketing method, with the comic and tv series, “Blazing Teens”.
Auldey’s latest foray seems to be one into the RC market, kicking off with 1/24 scale and low-end 1/10 scale cars. It seems again that they are going down Tamiya’s route, as it the hobby scale car market – with all its after market parts and replacements still fetches the best money among the company’s other diversifications. After all, Auldey’s current manufacturing glory in China is only a fad-driven one. She will need more stable incomes to meet her expansion goals.
Sham? Maybe initially. But Auldey has earned every once of glory it now has.
Below: Auldey’s “Mini-Monster Overland”, upgradeable Mini Monster Truck
- by Julian Wong