listen up you youngsters

3y ago


For years, I've been listening to people telling me that the car will destroy the planet. And sometimes, their arguments have even been faintly convincing. But it turns out not to be a problem at all, because the car will die out from lack of interest before it does any permanent damage.

We were discussing on our car show the other day how the number of people taking the driving test in Britain has fallen by 70 per cent in the last decade. We take this to mean young people, as older folk can either already drive or have decided, like my mate Ben (aged 60), not to bother.

And as a result of this, new cars are becoming boring, because they're just elaborate financial instruments designed to draw people into a lease scheme or hire-purchase deal, which is where the car industry is actually making its money. No kid wants dad to buy a Citroen C4 Cactus in the way I was desperate for my dad to buy a Rover 3500, because they're more interested in Snapchat.

No kid wants dad to buy a Citroen C4 Cactus in the way I was desperate for my dad to buy a Rover 3500, because they're more interested in Snapchat

James May

To be honest, if I were 13 I would be more interested in Snapchat as well, but it hadn't been invented when I was a lad and one of the few things to get excited about in grimy and dysfunctional 1970s Britain was cars. So cars were what we dreamt about, when we'd finished thinking about Karen Bradley's emerging breasts.*

So it seems to make sense. The next generation isn't interested in cars, so cars are becoming dull.

But I've since thought about this a bit more, and it's horse's arse. For a start, I'd forgotten that I was young once, but now I've recalled the experience I remember that a lot of cars were boring then as well. The Austin Allegro? The Morris Marina? The Hillman Hunter? I wouldn't wish these things on Donald Trump's barber, and I certainly didn't have posters of them on my wall. I had a Lamborghini Countach, and no-one's dad could even begin to own one of those. And anyway, I've since driven one and that was crap as well.

No; the truth is that declining interest in cars is actually great news for those of us who still like them. Hold on a minute.

I'm forever hearing people on the radio and television lamenting how bell-ringing or morris dancing or wife-throwing are not drawing in the younger generation, and so they're going to die out. Everyone throws up their arms and goes Oh no! There won't be any more (insert dreary outmoded passtime) once this generation has gone.

So what? So long as some people from the current generation are interested in spoiling the experience of a pub garden by running around it with fairy bells on their boots, it will continue. The younger generation isn't in the least bit interested, so when it mercifully dies out, they won't care. So what's the problem? The dead are hardly going to be hacked off about it. They'll be too angry about being dead.

So it doesn't bother me in the slightest that my young nephews and nieces won't share my love of cars. I can continue with it as long as I'm alive, and, more to the point, they won't be cluttering up the road and spoiling it for me. When I'm gone they can throw my Ferrari in the river and make a short and amusing video about it.

More to the point, this decline in being bovs will actually improve cars. I've argued for decades that cars will eventually become a hobby, just as sailing boats and biplanes have. Nobody actually needs these things any more, so the ones that survive or are freshly made for enthusiasts are better than the ones we had when they were mere appliances and instruments of work.

The same will happen with cars. Once nobody needs a car simply as a means to move about (because we will have invented the anti-matter air capsule) there won't be any dreary grey diesel hatchbacks available to drive away for £99 a month thevalueofyourcarmaygodownetcetc. What car lover would want one of those? Car makers, if they want to remain players in the twilight of their business, will have to make affordable cars that are wonderful to drive. The roads will be populated by the likes of the MX-5 or a hot Clio.

Bring it on; I can't wait. Less traffic and better cars, all owned by people who are interested in what they're doing.

Thinking of learning to drive? Please don't.

*Her name has been changed just in case she's actually reading this. Her real name was Deborah.


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