When is a Range Rover like a small electric car?

19 May 2007

They say love is blind. If the object of your love goes unappreciated by most, your blindness probably becomes all the more pronounced and your love all the more heartfelt. We have all seen it among urban 4x4 drivers, who can become belligerent in their defence of their lumbering cars, now that growing numbers of people consider them indefensible.

Now we are seeing it among fans of the G-Wiz. They so love their cars, spurned by most, that they cannot bring themselves to see fault.

Wanting to learn more about how ordinary owners of the G-Wiz had responded to the bad news that their car wasn’t a car, and would fold up around them like damp rag in a crash, we joined the online G-Wiz Owners Club and zipped along to its thriving forum.

In a forum thread on safety, the first material comment came from “Mark time”:

“I am sure that we would all agree that the danger does not lie with the G-Wiz itself but with the nature of some other vehicles that it has to share the roads with.”

Which is a bit of a startling statement. Given that two G-Wiz colliding head-on could easily wreak the havoc created by Top Gear, it is clearly a statement borne more of love than reason. And it turns out that this contributor should not have been so sure that everyone would agree:

“The G-Wiz is not a quadracycle .... it's a car,” responded “nat” in a follow-up post. “When it looks like a car... when it drives like a car... when it is bought as a car... then it's a car.” This member went on to observe that “the makers of the G-Wiz will have to address the safety issue quickly if they are to survive in the marketplace”.

Member “Matt”, meanwhile, saw conspiracy theories at the Beeb: “This deliberate reputation-damaging enterprise has been orchestrated by Top Gear for the amusement of the petrolheads. The BBC are hammering the story to hell on their news programs in a thinly veiled promotion of Top Gear.” Yes, never mind the microscope that BBC news programmes are still under since the Hutton Inquiry, they’ll sex-up a bit of non-news to boost an already highly popular brand like Top Gear. Hmmm.

Back to reality: member “ashaw”, who joined the forum solely to find out if his G-Wiz was safe, had this to say: “When I bought my car there was no mention in the sales pitch of it only meeting safety standards of a quadricycle - it was sold as an an electric car that meets all the safety standards ... you obviously buy the 'car' as an environmental statement but you want to be safe. I bought mine to do the school run so I particularly asked about safety as an issue at the test drive. With two young children in the car I don't want to feel that I am risking their lives by using it.”

Would this plea to think of the little children remove the scales from the eyes of the hard-core fans, and make them at least admit that the G-Wiz might be a teeny bit unsafe?

“Would I be any safer on a motorbike or pedal bike than in my G-Wiz? I think not,” said member “Tim”.

Which didn’t reassure “bakerstreet”, who used a G-Wiz for business. “I assumed, like some other people, that it was as a safe as a car and now I see it is not. I cannot accept the ‘it is safer than a bicycle/motorbike’ argument - this vehicle is neither of these and I am one of many people who own a G-wiz who would never get on a motorbike.”

It's worth visiting the owners club if you're at all interested in EVs. But we were surprised. There is not much outrage among those who have paid rather a lot of good money to own a G-Wiz, and instead there seem to be rather a lot of owners in a state of blissful denial.

As it turns out these fans have more than a little in common with 4x4 owners. Both can’t see the faults in their vehicle of choice. And neither owns a car that’s fit for taking the kids to school.

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