TopGear USA, Canceled – 2nd try

TG USA NBC FAIL - Who is up next?

TG USA NBC FAIL - Who is up next?

I just read that TopGear USA or Gear as NBC was going to call it, has been canceled before it has even begun. (because of the epic fail of Knight Rider??? WTF?)  This is disappointing news but it also doesn’t surprise me since this has been the 2nd try at getting a sister show in the US running in some form.

There was a BBC developed test pilot about 2 years ago called TGUSA that never left the ground, and in 2008 NBC started the process of developing a series and selecting hosts and now that has stopped too.

The Top Gear Show people at the BBC say that they are shopping the concept around to cable broadcast networks via the Jalopnik post, but I am not all that sure this will work either. I think that finding a network in the US for TopGear will be tricky because of a few things:

1. All the shows in the US change their content to please advertisers. TopGear does not. This is a huge risk for US networks, (cable or free tv) because they could loose a huge amount of revenue if an advertiser doesn’t like a comment about their product on the show. (not just cars remember, TG rips on anything they don’t like from caravans to clothing to speed cameras)

2. The only people who will want to fund this show would have to be fans. (even if they are executives or media moguls, they still have to be fans to believe in the concept) They would have to understand the intricacies of what TG is, how it is produced and why people love it so much all over the world. You can’t mess with that formula. They are trying so hard in Australia to get it right and my brother still calls it “Bad Top Gear” that we watch when UK Top Gear is off-season. It is a show that is incredibly hard to get right  and the chance you can replicate this in a formulaic way is slim. Just think, the UK  Top Gear has been running since 1977 and only since the late 1990’s has it been really good. It took them that long to get the UK version right and they are still tweaking.

The TopGear show not only takes the best improviser hosts, it must take a huge staff of researchers, a boatload of talented car mechanic guys for all the race and experimental stuff they do, a boatload of the best camera guys and the most excellent editors and sound people. And I am sure I am unfairly forgetting half of the staff. And then there is the constantly updated website. This is a large overhead cost when networks may not know if they can make any ROI from it and don’t know heads or tails about what would make it successful.

Maybe they should start small instead? A small TG-USA blog with short 5-10 min segment clips once in a while? See if it generates enough web interest and then take it to TV? Smaller staff, less hours needed in all the functions and it lets you get your bearings straight on all the details before going on to a higher cost/risk situation. Just a thought… 

Or maybe produce one time hour long “specials” to see how they take without a huge commitment in set building and long term contracts? More the on the road stuff, challenges, trips, building/breaking things? I am just trying to think of ideas on how to keep costs down and limit the risk in the beginning so it can catch on.

Another idea is to pitch it to a sports network, the speed channel or odd indie channel on cable like FX. Or go wild and produce it on the BBC America channel. (and take off those neutered versions of the show that are running there now) That might be it’s best chance of succeeding. Get some large (non-car) sponsors of the show and see what happens. 

Regardless of who ends up producing and funding TopGear USA I hope it lives and I still look forward to seeing the final product. (even if it ends up kind of crap)   . . .

Hey can I help? My brother and I plus my fiance make 3 redheads who know negligible things about cars and have great banter. (my Brother and Fiance actually do know something about cars, I am really the goof of the bunch) If nothing else these pics prove we are real people.

Ok, I know that is a crap idea, but I had to try…

We’d be the super low budget version.

Here’s a camcorder duct taped to your window, good luck, don’t break it. 

Seriously, it would be funny… Ok I’ll forget about it…

Advertisements

Top 10 Questions we have for TopGear, Season 12

I just wanted to post these since I have not written about TopGear UK in a while and I didn’t want them to think they weren’t still producing top content or keeping my attention. The season 12 shows (1-4) that I have seen so far have been excellent and had many laugh out loud moments in each one. I always find it funny that my brother, fiancee, my dad and I laugh at different parts of the shows too.

The US trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week was my favorite so far (maybe because of a post I made last year suggesting it for TG USA) but there is always another great TopGear show around the corner. Anyway, here are my top 10 questions for TopGear UK, since I do not live in the UK and can’t go ask them directly. (if they would like to come to Chicago, I would be happy to answer their questions about my city) 

If you have the answers to any of these questions feel free to leave me a comment.

10. When is the TopGear USA (Gear on NBC?) going to start? They have been filming/talking/speculation for over 6 months already. (This has been answered…it has been dropped by NBC, no plans as of yet to sign another network)
9. When are they going to start showing current shows on BBC America? (ahem, without 33% of the show cut out)
8. When are we going to get the Top Gear track times on the board for the Corvette ZR-1, Challenger SRT-8 and CTS-V? (its only fair)
7. Why does Richard Hammond change hairstyles each episode? Why does he still wear the man-jewelry he aquired during that Africa trip episode? Why is James May’s hair always falling in his face in the studio segments even though there should be a stylist around to help him avoid that? Why does James always wear the Cheshire Cat rugby shirt on new car test days?
6. Where can I go to learn to drive like that in my car? (seriously, TopGear sport driving schools sound good to me)
5. What is that 747 doing there out on the runway near the track? Is it flyable? I thought it looked like they might be taking it apart in one of the recent episodes.
4. Why is one of the turns in the TopGear track called “Chicago” if they have never actually filmed a show in Chicago? (hint, hint…)
3. What are all these bets that end with weird clothing about?
2.Who is the stig? What are the morse code messages saying in the car when the Stig tests out the new cars on the track? 


1. How can I integrate TopGear somehow into my wedding ?

How GM should restructure for a Government Bailout and streamline Brands and Cars

How can GM save itself from Implosion? Which GM brands and cars should bekept and which should be cut?How many jobs can be saved in Detroit? Should GM, Ford and Chrysler be saved at all? Will the consumer demand for vehicles (cars) ever pick back up again? These are all good questions.

Everyone is all a buzz about the American Car companies and their pitch to the Government saying that “bankruptcy isn’t and option” so give us billions in free money that has no strings attached and we can spend on anything we want. Ouch! I think congress was right to send them packing the last time they showed up in private jets and asked for money, and we have learned that in the other bailouts, the banks aren’t spending their money on what it was “proposed” for so more oversight is needed for any government bailouts of companies.

Back to my thoughts on GM specifically, since I am not an expert on Ford or Chrysler.

GM has some opportunities to be successful in the future but much of that opportunity comes at the cost of getting rid of the past, completely and starting over from scratch.

Almost every GM car or truck sold in the last 10 years has been either: inferior in quality, reputation or design. They also tend to make cars for segments that people don’t need and then wonder why people won’t buy them even when pushed. (Hello: SUVs) I read yesterday that the 4 brands that GM intends to keep are Buick (yay!), Cadillac (ok), Chevy (a necessity) and GMC (WTF?). 

I think they should throw all the brands out and come out with 5 new ones with distinctive market segments and niche products. Here are the segments in automobiles that I think will be big in 10 years that GM or any car company needs to invest in, and cut everything else:

1. The new shiny reliable car below $8,999. Developing countries and low income people in developed nations will need this kind of transportation as the cost of transportation increases consistently. (think college kids and retail hourly wage workers) It isn’t sexy or cool or updated every year. It is a 5 year design of an extremely reliable and simple car and only available in 1 color and maybe with 2 seats. If people want variety they can customize on their own. These cars are cheap super basic transportation and low cost is what sells them and fuel efficiency is also important. They have to be more reliable than a used car or this won’t work. Think old VW Beetle, Geo Metro, India’s Tata, China’s Cherry Motors or simpler version of a Honda Civic/fit.

2. Super eco friendly green cars. This segment has a product range from cheap eco friendly basic cars to luxury eco friendly status comfort cars. Performance isn’t really a priority but style and design is. Comfort comes at a price but miles per gallon is always in the 50-75 mpg range for all vehicles. Leather heated seats is an option on the lux ones. Think Toyota Prius and GM Volt. A 5-door option is nice here too. Eco people are practical people. Plug in charging in your garage and solar panels in roof are also great pluses if the cost can still be comparable to a non-eco car. People need to have one of the eco cars start at $15,000.00. Then fancier ones can be higher priced. Pricing people out of the market is bad for business, you loose sales and customers to people who do have the affordable eco cars.

3. Business/Industrial/Delivery Trucks & Vans. No consumer needs a truck unless they live in the mountains of Colorado or live on a ranch, but telling people they needed huge over-sized utility vehicles for their family use has been a strategy used in the past 15 years to re-purpose existing designs to new markets. This era is over and the SUV needs to die except for people who have 5 kids. (relatively few) There is a continued opportunity to sell trucks to businesses that deliver, transport and create large products in the US but it is a far smaller division of the company and of sales. And living in the US and seeing firsthand how people use these vehicles for business should give GM an insight that the Japanese, Chinese and German car companies don’t have and lead to building and innovating better vehicles.

4. And most importantly: The everybody car. I think GM has no way of recapturing a significant part of the 4 door family sedan but there is an opportunity to innovate it. There have been a few cars that are appealing to everybody because they contain multiple category characteristics. (um, crossovers without the truck part plus luxury) The everybody car I am talking about is the 5 door hatchback sedan. Don’t think 1970’s! Think of the Prius and Saab 9-3 when it was a 5 door, think Subaru WRX. More needs to be done in developing practical sexy cars like this because they take over where SUVs left off. You can haul things in them and get good fuel economy at the same time. You can even structure them for performance and luxury and fuel economy at the same time. So, the 5-door sport/luxury/green/family sedan is the everybody car of the future. Will GM make it and market it properly? (it could be the volt if they lux it up a bit)

5. The Luxury Performance car. Lastly, GM needs a super-car or luxury flagship vehicle that basically walks on water and inspires a generation. (more than the Pontiac solstice) These cars aren’t always profitable themselves, but they make the other brands you own more profitable and can make your brand one that people believe in. How Toyota and Honda don’t have one I don’t know, but maybe that is why they do so much racing now?  The Corvette makes Chevy feel cool, the R8 made Audi sought after. Vipers dying off made Chrysler seem even less cool and less reliable. Plus so few people will be able to afford a luxury performance car in the future that this will need to be a niche business with limited production.

And for fun here is what I think of the brands GM currently has:

Keeping Buick: Buick makes an extremely reliable car (yes like Honda/Toyota reliable) so this is a good place to start and they get 25-30 MPG. What Buick needs is a few smaller car options and even better fuel economy without sacrificing the comfort, luxury and quality that people need and love. They do need a new logo though, that doesn’t look like the 3 old 80’s shields.

Keeping Cadillac: Caddy is all about Flagship dream cars and it may share a few parts with Buick so there are manufacturing cost efficiencies there.  Caddy needs to keep innovating on performance, style and (surprise) eco materials and fuel economy.

Keeping Chevrolet: Chevy has been the all American fleet of everything (soup-to-nuts) vehicles for a long time. Many of the other brands aren’t needed because Chevy offers most everything. They cover work trucks, family sedans, performance cars with the Vette and with the Volt an eco car of the future. They should make them less fugly though, because they aren’t selling against other lux GM brands anymore, they are selling against Toyota and Honda’s flagship cars. 

Keeping GMC: Wouldn’t it have better to just sell trucks under one brand as Chevrolet since we need so few trucks? I am at a loss on this one. GMC offers nothing new, interesting or innovative at all. (yuck)

Cutting Saturn: Apparently this is just Opel cars from Europe now.  The Saturn brand name needs to die since it means cheap, flimsy, crappy, cars that break down a lot and are ugly. Re-release Opels under the Opel name? How about Vauxhall in the US? We like them.

Cutting Pontiac: Well Pontiac has been loosing it’s battle to streamline its designs and be a sleeker performance division of GM because of it’s cheap finishes and lack of quality. Plus the dealers don’t really help here either when they don’t look like a performance dealership. I think the concept of performance only exists at the same time with luxury because who will pay all that money and not want to be comfortable in their car? And quality in finishes and reliability is ultra important. As Pontiac is now, it should be cut and their logo scrapped.

Cutting Hummer; Duh! Sell it to the Norwegians or Russians or UAE or something. Wherever it is cold and has mountains or endless oil. The military division of Hummer should be retained and put into Chevy for developing military/industrial products.

Cutting: SAAB Well we saw this coming. They made an over engineered car un-reliable so GM deserves this one. From personal experience I will never buy another Saab again because of the reliability problems and obviously no one else is either. This is typical GM strategy, cut quality, save money, increase profits in the short term, piss off customers, loose customers, wonder why they can’t win customers back after costing them 5K in repair bills. Basically if you screw someone over financially once, they never forget it. This should not have happened because Saab had a lot of potential, but it’s pretty impossible to fix now.