Ryu Asada (1978-2021) | Source: @hotwheels_ryu

One of the most prolific Hot Wheels designers of the past 20 years has taken his final lap.

Ryu Asada joined Mattel in 2004 as a designer on the Matchbox brand before making his way to the Hot Wheels Team. Over the course of his 17-year career, Asada designed dozens of 1:64-scale die-cast vehicles for the $1 Hot Wheels mainline assortment, most recently serving as designer project lead.

Ryu Asada | Source: Mattel

Asada’s passing was revealed via a message posted to his official Instagram account and shared by the official Hot Wheels profile:

“Ryu courageously battled Stage IV colorectal cancer for four and a half years. Even throughout extensive surgeries and chemotherapies, he stayed positive and continued doing what he loved to do — designing Hot Wheels and sharing his passion for cars with the world.

He had a strong will and fought until the end. He took his final lap at the hospital on March 23rd from complications of the cancer. His co-driver in life, Hazel Diaz Asada, whom he met at a drawing class at the University of Oregon 21 years ago, was, like always, by his side.

In his short 42 years with us, he accomplished and experienced so much. He was grateful to have worked on a vast selection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars for 17 years, turning his dream vehicles into 1:64-scale die-cast treasures for the young and the young at heart. He was most proud of bridging car culture from Japan and the U.S., helping fuel the current JDM car craze sweeping the die-cast world. Most importantly, he developed meaningful and heartfelt relationships with people through shared interest in cars and on plenty of adventures all over his home track set of Los Angeles and across the globe.

The family thanks everyone for all the love, support, and prayers from around the world. Ryu is beaming with joy knowing that you have a favorite car designed by him. Ryu will continue to live on in our hearts and memories.”

Asada’s work will continue to live on in die-cast aisles, toy boxes, and collections around the world. At least 17 of his designs are on the pegs this year as part of the Hot Wheels mainline assortment, including the ’94 Audi Avant RS2, ’67 Ford GT40 Mk.IV, Lethal Diesel, Tooned Twin Mill, Dodge Van, and the foodie-themed Car-De-Asada.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.