The Hot Wheels brand of die-cast toy cars is a strong argument to diffuse any mistaken perception that its owner Mattel is a girls’ toy company on account of Barbie. It is the toy line of choice for young car enthusiasts who cannot be bothered with model kits, and prefer the fast-paced Hot Wheels play.

But in the rise of more engaging electronic entertainment in the 2010s, regular brands like Hot Wheels need to learn new tricks to retain their hipness. What better way to do so than by collaborating with computing and internet giants like Apple to give their toy cars a digital edge?

Hot Wheels goes digital

Mattel has taken its decades-old die-cast toy car brand into a bold new electronic frontier. They have done this by introducing Hot Wheels id, adding a digital facet to playing with the latest cars of the toy line according to The Verge. In line with this initiative upcoming new Hot Wheels cars will have built-in NFC chips on their undersides. These chips can be scanned by a new mobile app co-developed by Mattel with Apple for iOS. This can be done by means of a new "Race Portal" accessory that creates a digital version of a new id-series toy car that can be “driven” in the mobile app for racing.

While the digital copy of the Hot Wheels id toy car is stored in the mobile app’s in-game garage and utilized for game racing, the actual toy car can join in on the high-speed play through the "Smart Track" kit, which can translate the speed by which the car goes through the track and carries it over to the digital vehicle, with the app able to keep tabs on multiple id-series cars simultaneously.

The retail transition period for ‘id’ line

The Hot Wheels id line is Mattel’s take on using digital trappings to enhance the play experience of their toy car brand. As USA Today tells it, Apple is currently running demo plays of the id system over the next month while selling the new cars of the series online. Once this trial period is over, Amazon will take up management of online sales for summer 2019.

Traditional store retail kicks in when the new id cars arrive on Target stores in the fall.

Even with the new NFC chips added, the Hot Wheels id toys from Mattel will retain the average $6.99 retail price per car. The Race Portal for digitizing id cars is priced at $39.99 and is initially available only on Apple iOS. Finally, the Smart Track will retail for $180, and it will be compatible through expansion with other tracks from the toy line in the market.

Hot Wheels aside, Mattel also has other one-off toy car lines in its product umbrella. One particular example is the tie-in toy car line for the 'Fast and Furious' movie series from Universal Pictures, the latest of which came out in 2017.