Steve Cro­p­ley

Where did I put those keys? The bin?

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -


Fas­ci­nat­ing day watch­ing the Car­los Ghosn soap opera un­fold, a wel­come dis­trac­tion from Brexit. In our job you meet car in­dus­try big­wigs reg­u­larly; I’ve in­ter­viewed the Al­liance chief four times over the years, in­clud­ing from the pas­sen­ger’s seat of an early Nis­san Leaf while he drove me around Padding­ton. Al­ways won­dered what Ghosn’s weak link was, be­cause he had to have one and it wasn’t ob­vi­ous. But among the Bill Fords, Martin Win­terko­rns, Mary Bar­ras and Alan Mu­lallys, he was the one whose man­ner po­si­tioned us fur­thest apart: him up, me down.

Most in­dus­try big­wigs are fun­da­men­tally nice peo­ple (when­ever I re­turn from a big-note in­ter­view, the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee is apt to say: “Don’t tell me – he’s a re­ally nice guy”). It takes spe­cial peo­ple to be in­dus­try lead­ers. But Ghosn al­ways seemed to have ar­rived from an­other realm, to re­pose in ours as short a time as pos­si­ble. Now we see how true that was.


The oft-used im­age at the top of this page of Sir James Dyson, cur­rently work­ing in well-pub­li­cised se­crecy on a rev­o­lu­tion­ary elec­tric car, al­ways makes me won­der who drew the fas­ci­nat­ing free­hand im­ages – ev­i­dently of a vac­uum cleaner – on the wall be­hind him. The ro­man­tic in me hopes it’s him. They bear a strik­ing re­sem­blance to the il­lus­tra­tive style of Mini cre­ator Sir Alec Is­sigo­nis, who ex­pressed his car ideas in the same sort of non-tech­ni­cal free­hand. How amaz­ing it would be if Dyson’s cars were so suc­cess­ful.


Ready for a tale of stu­pid­ity? Here goes: two weeks ago, I chucked away the keys to our 15-year-old Citroën Berlingo. Lobbed them in the rub­bish, I think, though that’s not proven. What­ever I did, they dis­ap­peared, and since the spare key had made a sim­i­lar exit years ago, the car was im­mo­bilised. Locked in gear in a deeply in­con­ve­nient place with the hand­brake on.

As I now know, there’s no panic as acute as hav­ing a car stuck where it shouldn’t be, when you have no way of shift­ing it. Couldn’t even open a door to push out of the way. The only so­lu­tion was to find the VIN num­ber from our dog-eared doc­u­ment file, use it to source re­place­ment keys from France with the kind help of Citroën friends (I’ll al­ways owe you, John Hand­cock), wait a week for the post­man, ver­ify that the new keys opened the car, and then find a spe­cial­ist in nearby Swin­don pre­pared to travel to our place with a magic lap­top to re­store elec­tronic re­la­tions be­tween keys and car. But when it fi­nally hap­pened, joy was un­con­fined. There was no bet­ter sound this week than that of the old diesel don­key burst­ing into life af­ter a mute half-month.

Ghosn seemed to have ar­rived from an­other realm


Rarely feel as luke­warm about a new car as I did over the Audi A4 All­road last week, so it was nec­es­sary to take a restora­tive night drive in our Volk­swa­gen e-golf, a car so good that I’m al­ready scared in case next year’s all-elec­tric ID (its re­al­world re­place­ment) doesn’t strike such per­fect com­pro­mises. Silly, I know, but there it is.


The orgy of car buy­ing in our house­hold con­tin­ues apace. Hav­ing joined the dark side a few weeks ago by buy­ing an oil-burn­ing VW Cal­i­for­nia, we’ve now in­vested in a Hyundai Kona Elec­tric to re­place the Fiat 500. It comes next month on a PCP. De­spite what the mis­sus and I al­ready know of elec­tric cars, this feels like a brave leap into the fu­ture. Mr Edi­tor Tis­shaw wants me to write about it, so I’ll look for­ward to telling you more about it soon.

Do James Dyson and Alec Is­sigo­nis share hand-drawn styles?

Steve Cro­p­ley

Our man didn’t warm to Car­los Ghosn on their drive

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