If you have a child, we know you’ve spent a lot of time online looking for new toy ideas for an upcoming birthday or holiday. By now, you probably know the toy industry better than your own child does. Because of that, we’re sure you’ve thought the same thing we have: “Why weren’t toys this cool when I was a kid?”
It’s crazy how much advancements in technology have improved the art of the child’s toy. Even though it’s been an across-the-board improvement, we wanted to take the time today to focus on the electric ride-on and how it’s advanced through the years since its inception. So come with us on this journey through the history of the development of electric ride-on toys and learn how they got to where they are today.
The idea of the electric ride-on originally came from an Italian company known as Peg-Pégero. Back when they opened for business in the late ’40s, their original line of products was baby carriages, but they slowly made their way into creating children’s riding toys. So it was only natural for them to eventually base their ridable toys on the automobile, one of the most influential inventions of all time.
These toy cars started out with a simple set of wheels and pedals, just like bikes did, but within no time, Peg-Pégaro realized that they could power these toys electronically to make them more car-like. After installing a gel cell battery and a functioning motor, they had the first electric ride-on in their hands, ready for the public to fall in love with.
After its creation, Peg-Pégaro created an American-based subsidiary called Pines of America. This is the company under which they started to sell their Traffic Patrol and Trail Blazer branded toys. Despite how cool the idea was, Peg-Pégaro didn’t know how to sell it properly; this was why they sold off their subsidiary to Kransco in the early ’80s. The new owners rapidly rebranded, changed the name to Power Wheels, and within no time, it became a hit.
Peg-Pégaro realized their mistake and tried to get back into this market after Power Wheels’ initial success. While they never hit it quite as big as their former subsidiary, they were a top competitor with products such as their miniature John Deere tractors.
Even though Power Wheels was on its way to fame and glory in the mid-’80s with its three unique designs and plenty more on the way, it wasn’t without its flaws. Many of their earlier products were recalled due to short circuits and overheating issues. While these were all fixable, the fear of possible dangers is much worse when it comes to someone’s kids.
Power Wheels also didn’t live up to the hype of the commercials. On TV, the ride-ons moved with such speed and ease, whereas in reality, they often struggled to move around on a completely flat surface.
Despite all of that, kids were still asking for them, and the demand grew. It did so well, in fact, that Mattel ultimately took notice in the mid-’90s and bought the entirety of Kransco for around $250 million. They then put the Power Wheels brand under Fisher-Price, which focused on all kinds of kids’ toys. It is still there to this day.
Eventual Parental Involvement
Undoubtedly, the biggest problem with these toys is the fact that they don’t have great longevity. Most kids will have outgrown them by the age of five or six, and unlike bikes, they aren’t as easily customizable to last throughout their childhood. This leaves parents with a giant toy in the garage that they must give away, dispose of, or hold on to in case they have another kid down the line.
Alternatively, some parents find joy in using these toys that are obviously made for children. They never got to mess around with these ride-ons while their kids were using them, but now that they’re sitting there collecting dust, it’s time for the adults to have some fun.
This desire to use a child’s toy for enjoyment has led to various competitions, such as Rednecks with Paychecks and Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing, in which full-grown adults ride these miniature cars down a steep dirt road against others. They almost always end in a hilarious crash or a broken ride-on, but these competitions are what introduced parents to the joy of these toys.
The Surge of the Internet
That brings us to how these tiny machines have really taken off in recent years. Parents getting more involved with these toys has led us to a world in which you can search YouTube and find thousands of videos of parents tinkering with their child’s ride-on to improve it.
Parents make modifications such as installing stronger batteries for more power, hooking up strings of neon lights, and even putting in sound systems. That way, their kids will look cooler and feel like they’re driving a real car. And of course, we have to thank the Internet for making this all possible since the spreading of these amazing ideas can happen in a matter of days instead of years.
Where We’re at Today
These ideas don’t stop at other parents, though. Companies like ours have also taken inspiration from these videos to make our own line of products that come with these ideas preinstalled for parents who don’t want to modify the toy cars themselves.
We have features like Bluetooth pairing and working headlights that significantly increase the value of these machines. We have gone as far as producing ride-on cars with touch screens to give children the ability to do anything they could possibly want to do while driving their toy car around. Since Tesla cars have them, why can’t we?
Even though the history on the development of electric ride-on toys isn’t as deep and robust as it is for some other kids’ toys on the market, ride-on toys have still come a long way since their creation. We are very excited about the future to come for these miniature cars, whether the developments come from us or someone at home with a YouTube channel. The list of possibilities is endless in this thriving market of children’s ride-on toys.