Clarkson on: the Ford Scorpio
Since Rover fitted chrome kickplates to its midrange saloons, the British fleet market has been left to Ford and Vauxhall.
Vauxhall made the early running with all sorts of new and exciting product - the Frontera, the Calibra and the Tigra which, we were told, went from concept stage to production in 14 minutes.
Ford, meanwhile, were fast asleep. They'd hit us with the new Escort in 1992 but it was such a dog people were surprised it didn't have a tail. Then there was the Probe. A nice enough coupe, but we all knew it cost £28.50 in America and couldn't see why it was more than 20 grand here.
To fight the Frontera, they teamed up with Nissan - always a mistake - and launched the Maverick which was ugly and hopeless.
But, all of a sudden, things began to change. It turned out the Frontera was built like an Airfix kit and so was less reliable than Israeli politics.
And when the launch-time brou-haha around the Calibra and Tigra died down, people began to notice that, as driver's cars, they fell some way short of the mark. Indeed, the mark was in Latvia and these things were just outside Leamington Spa.
Things went really pear-shaped, through, when the Cavalier won the British Touring Car Championship. Great - except it walked off with the laurels at exactly the same time as it went out of production.
Its replacement brought the whole house of cards tumbling down. The Vectra was unpleasant to drive, uninspiring to behold, not especially cheap, and took tedium to unprecedented heights. If Vauxhall can be likened to Manchester United, the Vectra was a performance that would have guaranteed a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers.
Using football analogies, actually, is a highly dangerous game because I know nothing about it, but I'll give it a go. Just like Vauxhall ‘gave it a go' with the Vectra.
Right now, watching Ford and Vauxhall slug it out is like watching a game of soccer. Both teams field 11 players, with some geared for attack and some for defence.
"Right now, watching Ford and Vauxhall slug it out is like watching a game of soccer"
Ford's new star of the front row is the Puma which can run rings round the Tigra - bad news for Vauxhall whose Calibra has been sent off just as Ford substitute the tolerable Probe with the amazing Cougar.
Out on the wings the Frontera is still falling to pieces while the Maverick spins its wheels in wet grass, so we'll call that one a draw. But there's no doubt the Explorer is a damn sight more able than that Japanese player, the Monterey.
It's the same story on the other side of the pitch where the Sintra is made to look wooden by the Galaxy - even though identical players are on offer for much less money elsewhere.
Vauxhall gain a little ground in the midfield because while the Omega and Scorpio are equally talented, there's no way you could raise additional funds by flogging posters of the Ford to teenagers.
It doesn't matter, though, because in the midfield Ford scores its biggest trump of the lot - the Mondeo. Even if Vauxhall's front row could break past Ford's, the Mondeo would stop them dead. The Corsa, too, is no match for the Fiesta, and Ford even provide the ball, in the shape of the Ka.
And now we come to the defence. Ford has the Escort, and Vauxhall has the Astra. And both are utter crap. They just bumble about, earning both teams a poor reputation for shoddy, unimaginative thinking.
However, both are about to be pensioned off to run bars in the East End, allowing new, and apparently fresher players to take over.
For Vauxhall, the new Astra is critical. At the moment, their entire team is out of date or useless or both. Ford's army of fresh-faced attackers has a clear run of the whole pitch.
If the Astra works, however, the blue and white team from Essex will be in trouble. They have a great front row and a stronger midfield but they'll be up against a great defence.
One of these days, Vauxhall is bound to wake up. Two years ago, Man United would have beaten Derby without trying. But today?
Ford has to remember they're up against General Motors, which has slightly more money than God. And in the end, as Fulham are about to prove, money is what matters.