Ford Motor Co. isn’t toying around with the launch of its new 2015 Ford F-150 Power Wheels pickup.
The Dearborn automaker revealed the Fisher-Price battery-powered sidewalk toy today with a video that mimicked the one used to unveil the real F-150 at this year’s North American International Auto Show. There were even spy shots leaked last week of the Power Wheels F-150, dressed in road camouflage and being carried on a cargo bed into a Ford building in Dearborn.
The four-foot-long pickup — which includes LED headlights, a working tailgate and FM radio — is meant to help promote the history-making, aluminum-body 2015 truck that will hit showrooms later this year. The plastic-body Fisher-Price edition is even lighter.
The little truck is the latest example of Ford’s lucrative licensing division, which brings in $2 billion annually by hawking the Blue Oval on everything from T-shirts and toys to lawn chairs and pinball machines.
“I think we undervalue licensing as a contribution to the revenue stream,” said Michael Bernacchi, a University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor. “Every piece of merchandise sold is part of the brand. It gets out there in the hands of the young, old, interested and not interested. I think it’s the best way for a brand to lobby for continued existence and growth.”
Ford has about 400 licensees globally and sold more than 45 million Ford-branded items in 2011, the most recent data available.
The automaker says Fisher-Price Power Wheels is its top revenue producer. It declined to say how much it made each year in sales of Fisher-Price products.
Mark Bentley, Ford’s licensing manager, said the automaker started discussing the F-150 toy’s concept about nine months before it unveiled the real truck at the 2014 Detroit auto show. He said he hopes it helps influence a potential new customer base.
“Toys are perfect because we get to showcase our product to younger people,” he said. “Hopefully, as they consider a vehicle in the future it will influence their purchase as they become adults and have discretionary income.”
Bernacchi said the toy could help hook future Ford customers. “If you play with something as a kid, if it’s something you really treasure, that brand, that message grows and continues to be with you throughout your life,” he said.
Pricing for the F-150 Power Wheels truck will start at $359.99 and will be available exclusively at Walmart beginning in September. The toy truck’s body shell is stamped in Windsor, Ontario, the truck is assembled in Mexico.
“The durability on these products is second-to-none,” Bentley said. “Fisher-Price leads the industry in product testing and safety.”
Bernacchi noted that a successful toy launch will only help the launch of the real truck. He noted other automakers, like General Motors Co., which has had success with certain brands thanks to successful marketing in movies like “Transformers.”
“The new F-150 is a huge product launch for us,” Bentley said. “When somebody comes to us to make a replica, there’s a lot of pressure to make sure we execute it properly. We feel confident Fisher-Price has captured that DNA.”