Are Power Wheels the Way Car Companies Turn Children Into Lifelong Customers?

Power Wheels Ford F-150 strength test 12 photos
Photo: Ford Youtube
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When healthy food advocates started pointing their finger towards giant fast food chains for the weight problems US children are facing, the response was they spent millions on healthy food themselves and that nobody wants to put children’s health in danger. But what if auto makers around the world are using similar marketing strategies to turn our kids into lifelong customers of their brand. Should we be concerned?
No, of course we shouldn’t since using a car is far from being something unhealthy for our kids. Or wait...

Several studies show that issues like food disorder, overweight, obesity and the diseases that come with weight problems such as diabetes could be a result of the fact fast foods are taking over our daily meals. In a way, we work over time to spend more on food so we can later spend even more losing weight or getting through cosmetic surgery for the stuff we gained eating that extra-food. Call it a vicious circle, but as long as it remains a matter of our own choice we all agree it’s something we can live with.

But what if it would happen to our children as well, without them necessarily realizing it?

In the last 30 years alone, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled among adolescents, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Moreover, statistics show that four years ago more than one-third of all children and adolescents were either overweight or obese.Recent researche suggests something even more dangerous: kids are most influenced by what they see and hear in popular culture.

Some even claim that not only are the fast food companies making lifelong customers out of children, but that they have the ability to go after the children’s children.

Let’s look at the bare numbers.

Get this, nearly $2 billion is spent yearly by U.S. food and beverage companies to market products to children, with the majority of expenditures promoting less healthy foods and drinks. And guess where all that money goes to?

For restaurants, toys with children’s meals is the leading form of food marketing directed at children by expenditure. In 2009, the top fast-food restaurant chains spent the majority (59%) of their marketing dollars to acquire toys, games, puzzles or other premiums to distribute with children’s meals.

OK, now we’re really overreacting with all this fast-food gibberish. Or aren’t we?

Let us ask you this: who is the biggest toy distributor in the world? No, it’s not Lego, it’s McDonald’s. The giant fast-food chain distributes 1.5 billion toys annually around the world.

But what if giant auto manufacturers are using similar strategies with the same sales result? Is it possible? Let’s take a closer look.

With a fast google search you’ll find most of the electric toy cars are usually called “Power Wheels”. They come in almost any body size, from ATVs, to SUVs, trucks and most of the car models. Some are one-seaters, but most of them come with two seats. They say kids make friends quite easy so why not make the party bigger from starters.

Is your four-year old boy an adventurer? Then he’ll fit right in a Red Arctic Cat. He might rather be into the army stuff, then you should probably go for the Kawasaki Brute Force Camouflage. Say your three-year old girl loves her Barbie doll, but you’d be really proud to see her holding the wheel of the pedal car you used to drive when you were a kid. No worries, just sell that old wreck and buy a Barbie Ford Mustang, she’ll even have the chance to invite a friend in the car.

Or better picture this. Your 5-year old boy is really sad he can’t make friends in the new neighborhood you just moved in. Kids are mean at first, when somebody new interferes with their game. What if instead of going out with that baseball glove your father gifted you with when you were the same age your kid is could be replaced with a really cool Chevrolet Corvette? If you were to buy one right now, he could choose from several colors, from dark blue to red and matte black.

Still not fond of the idea? Wait until you come home for Christmas with that Cadillac Escalade Power Wheels. Next thing you’ll see is your son playing Snoop Dog while rolling on the sidewalk in his new ride.

We didn’t even get to the part when things go custom, when powerful sound systems, karaoke accessories and disco lights become just a small part of the toy car’s features. And don’t you dare think these puppies don’t sell. Oh, they do, they do...

And it’s not even a matter of affordable toys, since the average Power Wheels are somewhere around $300-$500 if not cheaper.

In fact, we recently reported about the gift rapper P. Diddy bought to his two daughters. The second richest figure in hip hop industry, Sean Combs on his real name, is by far one of the super-wealthy car enthusiasts. But since he couldn’t give them actual cars he decided to surprise his kids with something more appropriate. For now anyway. His two 8-year old twins got a pink Power Wheels Barbie Cadillac Escalade.

Why? It’s simply the rapper’s way of breathing his passion into his kids. The toy car is just a replacement until the girls get big enough to actually drive. Take P. Diddy’s older son Justin, for example, who got a Maybach from his father as a sixteen birthday present. Guess what his daughters will get.

We reviewed one ourselves

And don’t get us wrong here, we even wrote a review on one of these small electric babies. One of our team members’s 2-year old daughter was kind enough to give us a helping hand and take the new 2015 Ford F-150 Power Wheels for a spin and tell us how it felt.

We’re not trying to rain on these kids’ enthusiasm or the great toys they can nowadays have and play with, we’re just asking one little question: is this really to their best interest or just another way powerful companies are trying to sell their products?
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