Spielwarenmesse: The next generation of the Bobby Car phenomenon

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Movers & shakers

The next generation of the Bobby Car phenomenon

from Ulrich Texter

Hardly any other toy brand is more closely associated with a single product than BIG with its cult speedster. The BIG Bobby Car Next is the latest coup for the “automakers” from Simba Dickie. The classic is now more stylish than ever and also features modern LED technology. Our interview with Uwe Weiler, Chief Operating Officer of the Simba Dickie Group, reveals there is no end in sight yet for the BIG Bobby Car phenomenon.

BIG Spielwarenfabrik has more than 200 products in its portfolio. But the key sales driver is still the Bobby Car, even 45 years after it was first launched. The ride-on is a well-established design classic. There have been repeated attempts to “capture the zeitgeist” and update the look of the little speedster. There was the Future Car, BIG’s solar offering from 1994, while the BIG BOBBY Car Art Collection was presented a year later. None other than French star designer Philippe Starck came up with the BIG-the-face.

Nevertheless, the original shape has always been the benchmark. And is also clearly visible today in the stylish BIG Bobby Car Next. More than 19 million Bobby Cars have been sold to date. Now an exclusive model with an LED light signature is rolling off the Bobby Car production line as well.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Weiler, architecture journal DETAIL recently reported on a new nursery school in Olang, South Tyrol. What do you think could be seen there?

Uwe Weiler: I imagine a Bobby Car.

Several of them, in fact. Market researchers say the Bobby Car was particularly popular in 2016. Can you explain why?

U.W.: Sales of the Bobby Car do not tend to fluctuate widely, upwards or downwards, and have been very stable for years. Rising birth rates, as we have seen in Germany in the last two or three years, do have a knock-on effect on sales. This is bound to be one reason why more Bobby Cars were sold last year.

The Simba Dickie Group exports around 75 percent of its products. How high are the export figures for the Bobby Car and where is it a particular hit?

U.W.: The Bobby Car is a phenomenon, but only in German-speaking countries, I’m afraid. Then Sweden is the second-biggest market.

Why has this classic not taken France or Spain by storm?

U.W.: This is due to historical reasons. For decades, there have been ride-ons in every country competing with the Bobby Car. The best example is France and our own Smoby brand, which itself makes ride-ons. These vehicles are the driving forces in their respective countries. Even if we used lots of marketing muscle to try and increase sales, we would just end up cannibalising ourselves. It would simply cost too much.

The Bobby Car is a design icon. Is this great success both a blessing and a curse at the same time, as the toy world judges BIG on this classic only?

U.W.: That is true, but I don’t think the emphasis should just be on the design. Ergonomics, not design features, were the main focus for the very first Bobby Car produced. We wanted to make sure that children would have the most comfortable leg position possible. The Bobby Car had no sharp edges, everything was rounded. And only limited comparisons can be drawn between the new Bobby Car and the original. It is more modern and contemporary and we have now presented the next generation in Nuremberg in the form of the Bobby Car Next.

And what makes it different?

U.W.: As the ride-on market leader, we wanted to show all that can be done with the production tools available to us today. This is a new fresh design combining different styles of production. The Bobby Car Next is not simply a blow-moulded body. Textiles have been processed and electronics integrated, for example. All in all, we have tried to use the latest production techniques currently available in this area.

Which presumably affects the price?

U.W.: Obviously this new product comes at a price and it is certainly not intended for the mass market, the domain of the Bobby Car Classic. However, quality is deeply respected in Germany. “Made in Germany” still means something, and that is why I believe that parents and grandparents are also willing to pay the price. It also offers retailers, especially those in the specialist trade, an opportunity to make money from this product.

What has been the response from buyers?

U.W.: We got a sensational response at the Spielwarenmesse, which I hadn’t expected so quickly. Buyers from all different sales channels are enthusiastic about the ride-on.

With the BIG Bobby Car Next, you have delivered a convincing interpretation of the ride-on vehicle in terms of design and also technology. Does today’s generation of parents expect more “style and design” paired with technical integration?

U.W.: Today’s generation of parents do really value design, that’s true. And this also holds for their social environment, their domestic sphere. A Bobby Car Next suits this lifestyle from a design aspect.

You spoke about how design was not the key factor, but ergonomics. And yet the Next still retains the iconic shape.

U.W.: That’s exactly how I see it. Certain stylistic features have to be reflected in all subsequent Bobby Car models. The Porsche 911 is the best example. It was launched in 1963 and the original shape is still discernible in each new model. With every new Bobby Car, we also try to be guided by the fundamentals of the original design.

Licensing themes play an important role at the Simba Dickie Group. Would we be wrong in thinking that licences only play a secondary role in the vehicle segment at BIG?

U.W.: We have no need for licences with the Bobby Car. Bobby Car is a generic term. If we added a licence, we would only be making it more expensive. It’s a different story in the tractor segment, but we only get involved there when it makes sense for us. Competition is very strong there, though this does not deflect us from constantly working on these matters.

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Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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