O F F - T H E - S H E L F

The following editorial reflects the personal thoughts of Doug Breithaupt relating to our common hobby of miniature cars. It is intended to generate discussion relating to 'Tales of Toy Cars'. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.

Majorette has offered great toy cars since the early 1960's. Will that continue?

1970 Citroen-Maserati SM

1978 BMW 733

1992 Audi 90

 Has Majorette Abandoned North America?

As I write this I am sitting in my hotel room in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Several times a year I visit Canada for business and pleasure. While the primary purpose of this trip was to plan for a classic car rally, a secondary purpose of any trip up north, is to look for diecast cars.

For many years, Canadians have had access to diecast cars not available in the States. In the past, I have been able to find interesting models by Tomica, Real Toy, international models for Matchbox and Hot Wheels, Yat Ming and always, Majorette. This trip I picked up some models from Tootsietoy, Matchbox and Maisto but all I could find from Majorette were the tail-end of the 1998 year models, and very few of those.

Majorette made an effort in the 1990's to become the number three toy diecast car producer after Hot Wheels and Matchbox. With Corgi's Junior line gobbled up by Hot Wheels and Tomica and Siku focusing on the specialty hobby markets, Majorette was one of the last of the great European-based diecast manufacturers still competing in the world-wide, toy car market. With a U.S. based marketing and distribution center in Atlanta, Georgia, it appeared that Majorette was ready to become a serious toy car player in North America.

For a while, major U.S. toy retailers like Toys-R-Us, Target and others gave considerable shelf-space to Majorette in the diecast car aisle. About two years ago, Majorette began to disappear from the U.S. market. Today, they are all but gone.

Canada has been a natural market for Majorette. Being a French company, Majorette is well-positioned to provide packaging in English and French as Canadian laws require. With their French and European focus, Majorette products have been popular in Canada. It seems that has changed.

In a recent e-mail from one of TofTC's French readers, he noted that Majorette models could no longer be found in France's larger retail outlets for toys. he said they seemed to be retreating to the hobby and speciality toy stores. I have talked with hobby store owners in the U.S. and they have confirmed that the wholesale distributors no longer offer Majorette. It appears that this may be the case in Canada as well.

Perhaps Majorette plans to follow Tomica and Siku into a much narrower market. If this is the case, Majorette will need to improve their products to match the level of quality that Tomica and Siku maintain. The lower end of the 1:64 scale diecast car market is very competitive with even giants like Mattel suffering at present. While collectors love the fact that these 1:64 scale cars are still available for about a dollar, it is hard to see where the companies can make a profit. Even with Asian production, a necessity today for virtually all toy car producers, production volumes required to turn a profit must be at all-time highs. The small-scale cars of Majorette are likely a victim of these severe economic realities.

The last new Majorette model I found was the 1998 Porsche 911. I have not found the new Audi TT or BMW Z3 Coupe, although I have seen them for over a year on the Majorette Web site. I will try to contact Majorette directly to confirm their product distribution plans. Let's hope that one of diecast toy car's brightest stars for close to 40 years is not burning out.