AUTOart is a Hong Kong-based diecast model car line of the company Gateway Global Ltd., which is based in Costa Mesa, California, USA. Other lines of diecast vehicles made by Gateway are Gate and UT Models, originally a German company with diecast cars made in China. AUTOart makes Die-cast model cars, slot racing cars, and diecast motorcycles. Radio controlled cars are planned for the future. AEROart is another division producing aircraft models.
AUTOart's model cars and motorcycles are fabricated in many scales. All models are of high precision quality, but are on the pricey side, with limited edition 1:12 scale models at about U.S. $500. Models at 1:18 scale are often over U.S. $100. Editions in 1:43 scale usually sell for about U.S. $40 which is about normal pricing for quality diecast vehicles these days. AUTOart models have very precise detail and very accurate proportions to the cars replicated. Wheels & tires, carpeting, seat belts, door handles, engines, suspension, even sun visors and door/hood/trunk lid dampers are all faithfully reproduced.
AUTOart is preferred by many diecast model collectors who favor quality over cost when compared to many other model car manufacturers. Nevertheless, in price and detail, AUTOart cars generally fall between Exoto and CMC at the high end, and Ertl, Maisto and Bburago at the low end.
AUTOart models marketed under the Gateway/Gate label are often of more common brands and more likely to be found in retail stores or as dealer promotionals. For example, when the Saturn VUE SUV was introduced mid-2002, AUTOart was selected to provide a detailed 1:18 scale promotional to be sold at dealerships. It was handsomely packaged in Saturn logo boxes, usually in metallic burnt orange - a color available on the actual car. Hood, tailgate, and front doors all opened.
Some of AUTOart's models have been criticized for being single body castings. This is particularly true of their Motorsport Division 1:18 racing car models which often have no opening parts or engine detail. Most 1:18 scale car manufacturers feature opening parts, and, right now, AUTOart seems unique to have a line of single cast cars, especially at such prices.
One might think that single casting models would be cheaper, but retail prices between their racing car models that do have opening parts, and their other lines, are not very different. Purportedly, in 2006, a letter was sent to customers from AUTOart stating that sealed cars were in part due to restrictions placed on them by Motorsport Teams, and that visibly improved outer details and manufacturing processes unique to the "Motorsport Division" would make up the difference.
No matter. It is a process that has been seen over and over in the diecast car industry, as global competition pressures companies to reduce costs. Smaller Matchbox cars originally had opening doors, hoods, and trunks. Most of their moving parts disappeared during the 1980s. Find a Matchbox or Hot Wheels car today with a moving part. There aren't many. European 1:43 scale models where everything opened, such as Corgi Toys or Polistil gave way to single casting cars with brighter paint jobs and lots of decals. Toys made in the United States have never had opening parts. Consider lines from humble Tootsietoy to the more sophisticated promotionals of AMT or Jo-Han. The thinner labor climate and stricter business attitudes in the U.S. never could support the complexity. More moving parts mean more expense and it is not a surprise to see this happen again with AUTOart and other larger scale, more 'collectible' diecasts.
In 2004, a lawsuit in Hong Kong courts was initiated against UT Models and Gateway Global and Gateway Hong Kong by the plaintiff, Paul's Model Art of Germany (known mostly for marketing Minichamps. Paul's Model Art claimed that it had rights to the sole distribution of certain models in Germany and that UT Models had used Gateway to offer new and different models and circumvent this deal. At this time the lawsuit between AUTOArt's parent company (Gateway Global) and Paul's Model Art is still ongoing, but seems to be leaning in Gateway's favor. Court documents are available for viewing here:
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