A true global brand, Carrera spans generations, crosses oceans and delights fans with its no-holds-barred attitude towards speed and adrenaline. Robert Hutchins explores the big business of motorcar racing on a miniature scale.
Speed and racing, boasts Carrera managing director, Andreas Stadlbauer, are at the core of the Carrera DNA.
Built on the principles of high-quality entertainment and performance, it is a slot car racing brand that has spanned the generations and travelled the globe for more than half a century.
So it stands that the genetic make-up of Carrera is a worldly combination with gradations of Spain, Germany, France, the US and more. As a brand, its genetic coding is a passport filled with stamps.
While its name may derive from the Spanish term for ‘fast race’, Carrera’s history can be traced back to Nuremberg of the 1920s. Founded by Josef Neuhierl under the name of JNK Nuremberg, the company initially found fame producing tin toys.
40 years on, it had progressed and by 1963, Neuhierl’s son, Hermann had introduced Carrera Universal, the first electrically powered Carrera car racing track. It may have been small in scale – weighing in at 1:32 – but Carrera was in the game of doing some big business.
"Carrera operates far beyond the borders of Germany, indeed all around the world, and our car model policy is designed to satisfy all international tastes," reads a statement from the firm.
"Fans from New Zealand to Cyprus and from Portugal to the US are all captured by the legend of Carrera."
Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, the firm became the leading brand in the German speaking slot car markets, bringing in a number of classic and modern cars to the portfolio. The company’s ability to tap into the big name car manufacturers, sponsors and investors has been a major string to its bow and a key strength of the brand throughout the years.
“All Carrera cars are licensed by the leading brands of the automotive and motorsport world,” says Stadlbauer.
“These include F1 in which Carrera is proud to have exclusive licenses with Ferrari and Red Bull, and with it, it enjoys a host of cooperative and licensed activities.”
From the 80s to the 90s, Carrera continued to evolve, and by 1999 the Austrian distributor for the Carrera brand – Stadlbauer Marketing and Sales – took over the company, helping to develop it into the global success story it is today.
“Carrera has enjoyed steady growth over the past few years, especially within our international markets such as the USA, UK, France, Spain and Italy,” adds Stadlbauer.
“We have invested heavily in providing the best play value and performance through the use of design and technology. We have embraced the digital age and now have products in 1:32 and Go!!! that takes slot racing to new levels for the consumer."
Keeping abreast with current changes in the tech space is a wholly important skill for the toy industry to learn and utilise. The companies that fail to do so, or lack the foresight to innovate in time, are more often than not, discovered in the deep end of some turbulent waters; take a look at the recent struggles of Hornby.
However, Carrera’s ability to read the zeitgeist has positioned it well within the market for a new generation of racers, delivering new devices that allow for enhanced connectivity and enjoyment.
“Just like the motor industry, Carrera will look to innovate and develop new, exciting ideas to give the user maximum enjoyment,” explains Stadlbauer.
“We will continue to expand our R/C lines and we will look to explore the best available licenses that our customers connect with.”
Fans from New Zealand to Cyprus are all captured by the legend of Carrera.
Andreas Stadlbauer, Carrera
Alongside technology, licensing presents a major portion of the Carrera business model, picking up some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment from Nintendo’s Mario to Disney-Pixar's Cars 3.
Close cooperation with the automobile industry has enabled Carrera to secure the licenses to produce several replicas from the world of motorsports, while among its big name licenses are Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, BMW, Bentley, Nascar and more.
Stadlbauer, continues: “This year, Carrera will focus on two major releases: Disney Cars 3 aimed at children on Carrera Go and Carrera First – a new pre-school line for us – and Formula 1, which is experiencing a surge in interest.
“Our strong licenses, coupled with state of the art functionality, has made us a leader in this sector. Each year we continue to invest heavily in producing the best products of their type."
However, Carrera is far more than a one-trick pony, and has made the move into big events. In 2006, Carrera held its first Carrera World Championship. The day went to Vienna’s Andreas Loth, who trounced a ream of top-class drivers, in what was billed as a ‘gripping final.’
Loth returned in 2008 to take the World Champion crown and in 2010 the mantle of Europe’s fastest Carrera driver went to Francesc Capell Vives from Spain. It’s a Hall of Fame that highlights the worldwide adoration for the brand.
“A key point of difference with Carrera is that we are all race fans and love to play, so the desire to produce the most exciting slot tracks and cars, alongside tech, will always be behind everything we do,” he concludes.