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Having bought parts in bulk several times I came to realization that electric parts are scarce resource in Lego world. The cost of plastic parts comes at around 10% of original price but there are so few electrics among them that I consider buying motors etc. separately and the cost would be times more as percentage of original price.

Most technic sets are sold w/out electric parts, so most of buyers do not purchase electric parts, hence small after market. I talked to salesman in one shop - hardly proper sample, still - the quantity of pure electric sets sold is so small I could hardly imagine it's significant profit for Lego.

Web search did not show info on the topic. What are most probable reasons that electrics are not bundled in sets? Are there studies / discussions why this strategy was chosen by Lego?

P. 's. There is no electrics tag, so I put electronics.

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Cost. If you look at any set with electric motors, etc. you will see a significant increase in the price of these sets. They have marketing research groups and accountants that somewhat dictate the price range of the sets they release. Any engineer with good experience can tell you of the headaches of dealing with keeping production cost down. Since the cost of the motorized sets are inflated by including expensive to produce/source parts, they will only allow so many to be produced/released each year.

Most customers take things at face value. They see that you "get less (pieces)" for your money in these sets and are less likely to buy them as often. The Lego company's targeted demographic has been stated as 8-12 year old boys from various sources. I tend to believe this claim based on the amount of sets released with those ages listed on them. This would also suggest that the majority of their marketing research is dedicated to this specific group, and has shown that electric components aren't a big selling point. I can confirm this to be accurate based on my own children and their friends.

I know from an engineering standpoint that the more components something has, and how "specialized" they are, the more expensive it is to produce. Because of this many parts are outsourced from companies that specialize it certain components. Electronics are good example of this as many of the internal components are manufactured from different companies. So not only are these individual pieces bought from several different places, but then they have to be assembled. All this equals "cost of production".

One last note: I often come across sets for sale (Bricklink, Ebay, etc.) without the electronic components. I have come to the conclusion that these people are buying the sets just for the motors, etc. and selling the rest to recover some of the cost. This works out well for sets like trains where adding additional cars is a common desire. This is option you might consider.

Related: How much does an average LEGO brick cost to produce?

Another possible aspect that I have no knowledge of is if there are any additional costs to import/export products that fall under "electronics".

  • I would love to know actual variable production costs of plastic vs electric parts per kilo. ;-) – Child Detektiv Aug 22 at 4:28
  • @Child Detektiv - As would I. To see how much they cost Lego vs. how much we pay for them would be interesting to know, if not infuriating. You might consider this as another question to post, although some aspects have been covered to some extent. – JohnnyB Aug 22 at 4:37
  • I thought about asking about differences in cost for different colors, but maybe it is more suitable for chemistry site. – Child Detektiv Aug 22 at 7:48
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LEGO seems to put significant effort into make products available at various price-points. Products like the Ferris Wheel and Carousel are a bit better with a motor, but you can get most of the fun by manually cranking them. Alex Nunes, and probably a few others folks, have created setups where multiple amusement park rides are sharing a single motor. If LEGO included motors with everything that could use them not only would fewer people be able to buy the set, but folks like Alex would be "stuck" with extra motors. I'm sure he'd find something to do with it, but maybe he's happier for not needing to figure that out.

Another advantage of motors sold separately is that you can share the motor between multiple sets. Maybe you're only playing with one amusement park ride at a time. Extra motors wouldn't help you any and if you're already space-constrained it would make things less fun. Extra motors also means extra battery boxes and the fewer batteries I need to worry about recharging or replacing the happier I am.

On the other side of things big Technic sets like the Bucket Wheel Excavator and the Crawler Crane would be hard to do much with without the motor. Mercifully LEGO has you covered for these sets and the motor is included.

So to summarize:

  1. If you don't need the electronics you don't have to buy it.
  2. You get more flexible options to fit into your finances and space.
  3. If you need the motor it is probably included so you don't have to fret about forgetting it.

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