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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top Gear presenters drive into more trouble... this time for using disabled parking bays

-They have also upset Nissan saying electric cars like theirs "are not the future"

By Daily Mail Reporter

Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May have driven into trouble yet again - this time for parking in disabled bays during filming of the hit show.

In a feature on Sunday night's episode, the pair tried out electric cars by driving them to Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, where they pulled into a car park to discuss the merits of the motors.

But rather than parking in normal parking bays, they parked in spaces reserved for disabled people - causing a storm of protest from disabled motoring groups who said it was 'typical' of Clarkson.

Scandal: Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May have driven into trouble yet again for parking in disabled bays during filming of the hit show

To add fuel to the fire, just after the slot about electric cars, Richard Hammond met a team of disabled soldiers who had been severely injured in Afghanistan.

The soldiers - some who had lost three limbs - were shown laughing and joking with Hammond as they took part in a cross-country racing in 4x4 cars as they prepare for the grueling Dakar Rally.

During the slot about electric cars, Jeremy Clarkson - driving a £31,000 Nissan Leaf - and James May - driving a £33,000 Peugeot iOn - discussed the merits of non-petrol cars, asking 'should you buy an electric car?'

After parking up in the disabled bays the pair laughed and joked about the costs of the cars and the electric motors - which are capable of a top speed of up to 90mph.

Typical: Rather than parking in normal parking bays, Jeremy Clarkson and James May parked in spaces reserved for disabled people, sparking outrage among disability groups

They also joked about the luggage space and how electric cars had to be fitted with special windscreen wipers which make barely any noise.

But it was as they stepped out of their cars - with Clarkson and May even standing on top of a disabled road marking - that shocked viewers realised they had parked in disabled bays.

Jim Rawlings, of Disabled Motoring UK, said he was sure that Clarkson 'wouldn't have cared' about parking up in a disabled bay.

He said: 'I'm sure the last thing on Jeremy Clarkson's mind was that he was parked in a disabled bay.

'The abuse of non-disabled people parking in disabled bays is rife, and with people like Jeremy Clarkson and James May doing this other motorists will just think they can just park wherever they like.

'People who are patently not disabled, like Clarkson and May, obviously didn't have a passing care that a disabled person might have needed those spaces.

Naughty: Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson (left) and James May (right) are in trouble for parking in a disabled parking bay for a segment of the show

'I'm sure Jeremy Clarkson especially would not feel contrite about parking in a disabled bay - it shows a lack of feeling and care and a total lack of compassion.'

Peter Lyne, of the Disabled Motorists Foundation, said it was 'extremely
frustrating' watching non-disabled people park in disabled parking bays.

He said: 'It's an immense problem and is an extremely frustrating issue which is not helped by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and James May.'

And viewer Adam Sullivan, 32, added: 'I was disgusted to see them parking up in a disabled bays. The pair of them were even standing about on the disability road markings and they didn't even notice it.

'For them to be so casual about it is disgusting and they should be hauled over the coals - along with the entire production team - for doing something which in the end, will encourage viewers to think there is nothing wrong with parking in disabled bays.'

The BBC has leapt to the defence of its popular presenters.

Controversial: It is just eight months since the team sparked a diplomatic incident by poking fun at Mexicans

A spokesman said the show's team did not 'condone parking in disabled bays' and admitted it had cordoned off spaces reserved for disabled motorists, after striking an agreement with the owner of the land, for the segment.

Andy Wilman is the Executive Producer of Top Gear said: 'Firstly, we did have permission from the owner of the premises to park in the disabled bays, which gave us a quiet spot to film in, and there were three other disabled bays available which remained empty throughout.

Secondly, for those who are cross with us, please direct your anger towards myself and the production team, rather than at Jeremy and James.


Jeremy Clarkson hit out at electric cars during the programme saying they "are not the future."

His comments have riled electric car maker Nissan which has invested heavily in the electric motors and plans to create 800 jobs by building its Leaf car in Sunderland.

Clarkson made the comments on Sunday's episode of Top Gear where he road tested the £31,000 Leaf - and was filmed being pushed around in the car that had a flat battery.

Push! James May pushes Jeremy Clarkson in the Nissan Leaf after it runs out of power

Producers then showed him stranded in Lincoln where he spent the next few hours brass-rubbing whilst he waited for the battery to re-charge.

However, Nissan claims that viewers were not told that the battery had been more than half empty at the start of the trip - and only had enough power to go 35 miles.

Information from a Nissan monitoring device which was in the Leaf showed that when Clarkson set off on his 60 mile trip to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire the battery was only 40 per cent charged.

The firm says the car was delivered to Top Gear with a full battery and enough power to drive 100 miles.

It said the device also showed that Clarkson did not switch on the 'eco-mode' in the car which would have makes the car go further by slowing acceleration.

Nissan's executive vice president Andy Palmer told The Times the programme was "misleading."

The BBC said it "absolutely refuted" it had misled viewers over the charge and range.

Top Gear says electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf Clarkson drove, are still too expensive and the charging infrastructure is still poor

Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman said: 'We never at any point in the film said that were testing the range claims of the vehicles, nor did we say that the vehicles wouldn't achieve their claimed range.

'We also never said at any time that we were hoping to get to our destination on one charge.

'We never said what the length of the journey was, where we had started from, or how long we had been driving for at the start of the film, so again, no inference about the range can be gleaned from our film.'

Mr Wilman said the consumer points from the programme were clear, that electric cars are still very expensive, re-charging infrastructure is patchy, the range varies enormously.

He said the Leaf was "a very good car per se" but said the battery, in Top Gear's view "remains the Achilles heel of the whole package."

A Nissan spokesman said: 'The Nissan LEAF battery pack is designed to last the lifetime of the car. If used in normal conditions, it is not expected that owners will ever have to replace the battery pack.

'Some degradation of the battery over time and use is normal, but the battery pack has been designed so that it offers a respectable range even after this degradation has taken place.'

Both presenters expressed deep concern to the film crew and I about using the disabled bays prior to filming, because of the disrespectful impression it would convey.

They only capitulated when we assured them the parking had been approved by the owner, and that the disabled bay markings would not appear on television.

This was our fault, not theirs, and we unreservedly apologise to all the viewers we have upset as a consequence.'

The furore comes eight months after the pair, alongside Richard Hammond, were slammed for poking fun at Mexicans.

Hammond said Mexican cars reflected national characteristics, saying they were ‘just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent’.

James described Mexican food as ‘like sick with cheese on it’, while Jeremy predicted they would not get any complaints about the show because ‘at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this (snores)’.



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