For Hot Wheels, strong sales during the festive season should have marked an end to the bleak outlook for investors during the downturn. However, there were rumours at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show earlier this month that disgruntled employees were set to lift the lid on some dark secrets that had been brewing behind closed doors.
Then, yesterday afternoon, a whistle blowing employee dropped the bombshell that there are allegedly steering defects in nine out of ten models to leave the production line. This has still to be confirmed, but the saftety implications have already rocked consumer confidence, with those who acquired a Hot Wheels auto-mobile within the last few months demanding answers from the embattled Mattel subsidiary.
There could yet be further bad news to come, with additional employees coming forward to voice their concerns on other safety issues they believe are present on their parts of the production line. One such worker, who contacted us but wished to remain nameless, told us that he feared for the well-being of those who used the vehicles he helped to create.
“We’ve known about those issues [with the steering] for years.” He said, “those guys [working] on the chassis have been living in fear of this coming out for I don’t know how long. They hate that the models they work on only go straight – just like my guys on the bodywork team hate that the doors don’t open on most of the cars that roll off our line. We’re following orders from above, you know? This can’t just be blamed on engineers on the shop floor – it goes all the way to the top.”
As Hot Wheels, and parent company Mattel, issued stark denials late last night, consumers began to speak out on social networking sites to further fuel the controversy. User BobaFett1982 said via Twitter “I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with my Hot Wheels car. I can’t turn corners at all. #fail”
The Hot Wheels employee who spoke to us said that consumers had every right to feel confused and betrayed. “They were completely misled. It’s the adverts – they show how fast and how crash proof our cars are, and those things are something to be proud of. But those ads are always filmed on tracks – they disguise the fact the cars can’t turn. And if you see a door open in those adverts it’ll be on a premium model, which doesn’t represent most of the stuff we sell.”
“I’m probably going to be looking for work over this, but I feel like a weight has been lifted now that I’ve spoken out. I just hope our customers can forgive guys like me. We just wanted to make great cars.”
Despite the revelations and the safety concerns they bring, Hot Wheels autos aren’t without their passionate supporters. One such fan, GarageMan99 said on Twitter that he’d still buy Hot Wheels cars;
“As a HW owner, I don’t care about the steering or the doors. My fave car has been in our family for generations and it’s still going strong.” GarageMan99 continued in a second 140 character-limited post, “Those cheap, plastic foreign imports fall apart in weeks – they’re the real danger – a Hot Wheels car lasts a lifetime!”
Before the markets even opened this morning, Hot Wheels stunned analysts by issuing the largest recall notice in the history of the auto-mobile industry.
More on this story as it breaks.