Clarkson on: the Euro
Since the whole of Europe has now become one, I thought we'd talk about the Euro. Sorry.
Thozzzzze in favour say that it will make price discrepancies more obvious, that we'll be able to see how much cheaper a Ford Focus is in France if they're using the same money. But this is rubbish. Even I, with the mental agility of a horse, can convert pounds into Francs without moving my lips.
They also say it will increase trade. No it won't. If we all have the same currency, the playing field is level and companies will simply buy whichever product is best. That means German, usually.
Sure, British companies are being hurt now because the pound is strong, but it can't be long before His Tonyness does something silly and it comes over all weak again.
Then they say that if we join the Euro, business transactions will be simpler. This is undoubtedly true, but do you really want to put the Queen's head in the dustbin, along with your blue passport, just to make life a little bit simpler for some spotty bank clerk?
I do. I think the Euro is a fabulous idea. It puts power firmly in the hands of the Europeans and that means less control for the idiot Blair - the only man ever to have lived who believes you can have a "caring" war.
Give me Berlusconi any day. When the sky-scrapers came down, the Italian said it was a strug-gle between a people who live in tents and a people who gave the world the high renaissance. Then he went for lunch. What a guy.
Three days after the plane crashes - I refuse to say ‘the events of September 11th' - one newspaper in Italy carried a report of anti-terrorism developments at the bottom of page one. The rest of the page was given over to a new Piaggio scooter launch. Marvellous.
I really do believe the civilised world is at a crossroads right now. We can either go down the American route; busy, busy, busy, no time for lunch, eat on the move, cupholders in the car, golf, working breakfast, working supper, work out and styrofoam food.
Or we can go down the European route. Style, pasta, more style, some red wine, smoke, laugh, style, friends, drive fast, see more, do more, eat more and take longer over doing everything.
There are those, I know, who say that if Britain must become part of something bigger, we should apply to be the 51st state of the USA, but I cannot think of anything worse. There are millions of reasons but there's only space here to deal with one - their cars.
Think about it. The only people in the entire world who buy American cars live in caravans and have one functioning eye. We never see what sort of wheels have been chosen by the Deliverance ‘Squeal like a piggy' chap but we just know that it's an IROC-Z.
Then you have America's only sports car - the Corvette. Oh please. A Corvette is a ship.
Anyone in America who earns over $3 a year buys European. There are ritzy clubs on both coasts where you simply won't get past the meat machine at the gate if you turn up in a Chevy or a Dodge. It must be a Benz or a Beemer or, best of all, a Range Rover.
"We Europeans came up with the wheel and haven't stopped innovating since"
There is, of course, a jolly good reason for this. American cars are, by and large, absolute rubbish. When you're behind the wheel of a Lexus, you sense that its engineering tolerances are measured in nano-microns. Whereas when you're in an American car, you get the impression it was built to the nearest foot.
There's some evidence for this too. Look at the Euro NCAP safety test results. Even a humble Euro car like the Renault Laguna gets five stars, whereas the old Chrysler Voyager was the worst car they'd ever tested. And other Yank tanks don't do much better.
We must also consider America's auto-motive breakthroughs over the years. Cadillac developed the electric starter - presumably because its customers were too fat to get out of the car and do it themselves - and Ford came up with the production line. So that its workforce could build cars without moving.
Great, but we Europeans came up with the wheel and haven't stopped innovating since.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the American motorist doesn't really demand more from his car than four wheels and a seat. We in Europe want to feel we're the organic part of the machine but over there, he is so disinterested in the driving experience that the car has to chime and bong all the time to tell him to do things.
This is why he's happy to have a truck. Never mind that it has mediaeval cart springs and an engine which develops 4bhp despite being the size of France. To Hank, it's just an auxiliary transport module; a device which will get him from A to B until someone invents a Star Trek beaming machine. He views driving with the same disdain that he views root-canal work.
Do you want to be a part of that? Or do you want a Noble M12 GTO? Well good. When we finally get round to the referendum on the Euro, vote yes.