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G-Wiz electro-car fracas leaves Top Gear blubbing
Top Gear Clarkson acolytes publicly slapped by Boris Johnson
Motoring buffs and greens have gone head to head during the past week as green-hating petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear henchmen tangled with bicycling mediatart Boris Johnson.
The vehicle at the centre of the brouhaha was the G-Wiz electric "car." The quotes aren't El Reg taking a position, as you'll see.
Back on April 27, Clarkson's crew got hold of a G-Wiz and had test agency TRL fire it into a barrier at 40mph. Unsurprisingly, the flimsy vehicle crumpled up like wet tissue paper, mangling the test dummies inside. The safety trial, conducted to EU standards, had been comprehensively failed.
The Beeb petrolheads reckoned they had a major scoop on their hands. They knew full well that the G-Wiz wasn't required to pass their test to be road legal, as it is small and light enough to be classified as a "quadricycle" rather than a car. Quadricycles can be as flimsy as you like. So the G Wiz wasn't guilty of any regulatory failure.
But the G Wiz is marketed as "the nippy electric car," by its UK importers GoinGreen. Furthermore, various parts of the UK government offer serious incentives for people to purchase one. The G-Wiz is exempt from the London congestion charge, and can be parked for free at most meters. There are tax breaks, too.
The petrolheads sat back, chuckling, as they prepared to unleash their "scoop" to a storm of predictable applause from the tabloids. The government would be left writhing on the media spit.
But the authorities must have had a spy in Clarkson's entourage.
"In the end, the story was broken not by us, but by the Department for Transport, which says it carried out a near-identical crash test on a G-Wiz three days before, only it won't say where," grumbled the Top Gear chaps on their blog.
"It [the DfT] is not planning to release pictures or details for another month or so, but felt the need to scoop itself (or scoop us) by releasing details to two national newspapers early ... The DfT is claiming it wants the laws on quadricycles changed, a change that could render the G-Wiz illegal."
Drat those sneaky government types, ruining a brilliant when-oh-when-will-the-authorities-act Top Gear consumer crusade. Beaten to the punch!
And then it got worse. Clarkson and Co typically like to project a red-meat, cigar-chomping, tough guy image, standing in splendid isolation among the right-on Beeb hordes. But media scallywag Boris Johnson was on the story like a rat up a drainpipe, hijacking the muscular libertarian angle before the Top Gear lads could get a look-in.
"Come off it," he wrote. "Are we men or mice in this country?
"Transport minister Stephen Ladyman yesterday denounced the G-Wiz, and said it was not in conformity with EU regulations ... he wants Brussels to kick it off our streets.
"Well, folks, how pathetic is that? It's as though we have got into some weird S & M relationship with the EU, in which ministers go around asking for correction. After years of ritual humiliation at the hands of Madame de Bruxelles, the fabled dominatrix, the man in Whitehall has become addicted to discipline.
"Oooh, yes, they say. Tell us we've been naughty. Tell us we were wrong to let it on our streets ... Madame de Bruxelles will obligingly crack her whip.
"Mr Ladyman - Girly-man, more like! - should stop this drivelling appeal to Brussels to ban a brilliant invention.
"It's about treating people like grown-ups, and letting them take their own risks ... You have only to take one look at the plucky little G-Wiz to see that is no less (and no more) dangerous than a bicycle. We don't need the Department of Transport to tell us that, and we certainly don't need Brussels."
Or Top Gear, either. Ouch.
Made to appear as submissive nerds who enjoy being whipped by Belgian dominatrices, the disconsolate petrolheads sniffed:
"Fine Boris, but ... nobody knew [the G-Wiz's] level of risk."
Sure, sure. You weren't mounting an attack on "hippies and communists," (as Clarkson prefers to characterise advocates of green motoring) by having fun smashing up a battery car. It was all about safety. Though in that case, you could just as soon have fired a milk float into a barrier, or run it over with a bus or something.
But it's a lot harder to look butch when you're up against a milkman, as opposed to a hippy. And let's face it, when you've been publicly bitch-slapped by Boris Johnson, you do need to worry about how butch you are.®