Traxxas has emerged as one of the most influential companies of the hobby industry in the modern era. They tower above all other individual R/C surface manufacturers, and even Horizon Hobby, with its multiple brands and worldwide status, seems to be trailing Traxxas in product innovation and dominance in the world of R/C cars and trucks. With Traxxas’ sizeable influence on the overall hobby market, let’s look at some things Traxxas could do that will further shake up the industry. Whether these hypothetical actions are good or bad is a matter of perspective, but there’s no doubt, if enacted, they would cause quite the stir.
The current situation with Traxxas’ connectors is simple: only Traxxas can manufacture and equip their iD plugs onto their batteries. No third-party company has access to, nor has successfully reverse-engineered (to the best of my knowledge), Traxxas’ iD tech. If you want to buy a Traxxas electric vehicle, and you don’t want to buy Traxxas’ batteries, you only have a few options:
You can purchase a knock-off adapter from Traxxas’ connector to something else, like a Deans or EC3.
You can purchase Venom LiPos with their UNI 2.0 plugs.
You can remove the Traxxas connector and solder on something else.
You can run a different speed control.
That’s it. Those are your four options. Surprisingly, Traxxas has not initiated patent litigation with any of the knock-off producers, even though Traxxas has a proven track record as a fairly litigious company when it comes to their patents. In light of this, I’ve sat around and asked myself: why? Why isn’t Traxxas immediately going after all these patent violators, especially after ceasing sales of their legacy connectors? I have an answer, and these actions, if taken will further silo Traxxas off from the rest of the hobby world.
It’s simple, really. All Traxxas has to do to render the first three options moot is update their speed controls such that they require the iD chip to function.
It’s brilliant. In one fell swoop, Traxxas can eliminate most of the competition and actually improve on user safety, because this won’t just be a way to stop all the knock-off products — Traxxas will use this opportunity to have the speed controls use the iD chip to set the Low-Voltage Detection; on for LiPos, and off for NiMH batteries. Obviously this will greatly improve user’s safety and protect their batteries, but simply put, Traxxas couldn’t get away with cutting off all other batteries without something to point at and say “Look! It’s all in the name of safety!”, as they did when they brought out iD, as they did when they refused to license the iD technology, and as they did when they first cut off the connector supply.
On the other hand, since we switched over to Traxxas’ iD batteries and chargers, we’ve seen a tremendous drop in the number of LiPo batteries our customers are having trouble with, and the quantity of batteries we’ve swapped under warranty has plummeted. Further automating the process of using a LiPo battery, by having the Low-Voltage Detection activated whenever a LiPo battery is plugged into the speed control, would surely cause an even further drop in LiPo issues among users.
Does Traxxas need to do this to maintain their spot at the top? Not at all — but mark my words, they will.
Online No More
I was once concerned Traxxas would abandon their traditional hobby store network and begin selling to the big box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart, in large part due to aforementioned iD technology. The easier the hobby gets, the theory goes, the less consumers need the help and support of knowledgeable experts like us. In some cases this did happen; Traxxas is sold at Best Buy in Canada. However, Traxxas recently restructured its dealer discount tiers, and in doing so, made it clear: Traxxas is doubling down on the home-grown hobby shop, and in particular, brick-and-mortar hobby stores.
Early in 2018, Traxxas announced a couple new Rally cars. Truthfully, I’m not really interested in the cars themselves, as rally cars haven’t sold well for us historically. What does peak my interest, though, is a line in the announcement email: “These models are offered exclusively through Traxxas Full-Service Dealers and Traxxas.com”.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that to be a “Traxxas Full-Service Dealer”, you need to do 70% or more of your total sales in-store, meaning online retailers that don’t have a physical presence, or other retailers like A-Main Hobbies, who do the majority of their sales online, won’t have the opportunity to carry this product, leaving it for the traditional hobby shop around the country to carry it. While it’s true that Traxxas.com will also sell the car, Traxxas does their damnedest to send consumers to the closest hobby shop whenever possible.
Could this be the beginning of Traxxas’ version of Horizon’s ECX as a hobby shop exclusive? Of all the companies that claim to be in the brick-and-mortar hobby shops’ corner, Traxxas walks the walk more than anyone, and this could be a sign they are testing the waters with an even more aggressive way to send business to their dealer network.
All I know is that if I were an online-only Traxxas retailer, I’d start getting a little worried right about now.
We all like to get a little recognition for accomplishing things. Whether it was getting a gold star on you elementary school homework, accepting a trophy for that bowling tournament you placed third in, or performing a particular action in a video game, in one way or another, we’re all achievement hunters. Traxxas already has a smartphone app that takes the telemetry data from any vehicle with the sensors equipped and displays it on the screen. What if it did more than just show you your top speed and battery voltage?
Traxxas could leverage their technological infrastructure to create a social-media connected achievement system. With their current suite of sensors, they could have achievements for fastest Slash or fastest X-Maxx. Maybe with the GPS unit installed they could have an achievement for more campsites driven in, or most well-travelled TRX-4. If Traxxas added more sensors, like a barometer, they could introduce a highest jump category for each truck. There could even be achievements for certain upgrades, like doing a Power-Up to their Velineon brushless system, or adding aluminum hop-ups to make the truck more durable.
Expanding it outward, imagine a series of leaderboards: one for the entire globe, one for each country, and one custom leaderboard for your group of friends. Every time you nab a new achievement or grab first place on the leaderboard, the Traxxas app could send out a message on Facebook or Twitter promoting your accomplishment. Traxxas even has the best name for the new service: Traxxas Underground.
What better way could there be to make even more money on trucks, parts, and hop-ups than to this? There’s always been a “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect to the hobby among friends, but tapping into the social media obsession we all have these days could supercharge the competition, leading to more sales for Traxxas and hobby shops alike. So Traxxas, when you implement this and make a whole bunch of money, send me a check, alright? ;-)