3 car gurus from 'The Grand Tour' ponder the car’s future
By MARK KENNEDY | Associated Press | Published: December 16, 2017
NEW YORK — When it comes to cars, three names instantly come to mind. No, not Ford, Chevy and Honda. We’re talking Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, the former “Top Gear” hosts who have just launched season two of their new automotive show, “The Grand Tour,” on Amazon Prime. They stopped by to discuss the importance of the car and why gas engines aren’t going away.
Just how important are cars to the show?
“It is just three middle-aged men with poor teeth, bad physics and creaking joints, who go around the world getting into scrapes. That’s really what it’s about. We’re in cars while that happens, but then people are in cars when they go to the store or when they go out at night. The cars are coincidental.”
Why do we love our cars so much that we name them?
“In a relatively short span — 130 years — it’s defined and shaped our world in every way, from important military action to merchant activity to love, sex and rock ’n’ roll. Think of the songs that were written about cars. They’re so intertwined with our lives, they scratch such a fundamental itch within us as human beings that they’re bound to be imbued with qualities and characteristics far beyond simply being a machine.”
What do cars tell us about us?
“You can make social commentary on the world by the cars that people drive. You show me someone in Prius, I’ll tell you quite a lot about them. Show me someone in Texas in a pickup truck with a gun rack, I can tell you quite a lot about them. I’ve never met them. I don’t know them. I know these days that’s called being judgmental. But it’s true, you can.”
Are driverless cars just around the corner?
“I don’t see those happening in my lifetime, probably not even in the lifetime of my children. For 40 years we’ve been promised robots. Nobody has built a robot than can make a sandwich or boil an egg or even climb a flight of stairs or open a door. And yet somehow we’re expected to believe we’re on the cusp of a car that can negotiate Manhattan or drive around a U.K. ring road or handle Rome.”
But change is coming; no complaining allowed
“Historically, when you look at the attitude of hard-core car enthusiasts to changes in the car, you will discover that all the things that we objected to — unleaded fuel, catalytic converter, side-impact protection, blah, blah — everyone always said, ‘Oh, it’s the end of motoring. It’s going to ruin everything!’ The car always improved because a challenge was laid before it and it had to be overcome. And the cars got better.”
Are we facing the end of the internal combustion engine?
“The future is not the end of internal combustion, just as we still have steam locomotives for enthusiasts and sailing boats and people ride horses. Cars, as we know them now, will be freed up for people who genuinely love them to drive in certain places — not everywhere because that won’t be allowed — but nice places, special roads, circuits, maybe. We won’t have been wasting all that oil on driving people to work because they’re going around in their electric pods so it won’t seem so bad burning it for purposes of pleasure. The future is full of Ferraris.”
If cars go away, are you worried about your job?
“There’s never been a better time to be a commentator on cars. The industry itself has never gone through more change. When it first started the car was a novelty... And yet 100 or 130 years later, here it is, this globally important influence is being reinvented by people who know how significant, how important, it is to us. So what an exciting time to be dealing with it.”