Tesla Sues Top Gear Over "rigged" Electric Car Test

Remember that time Top Gear gave the Tesla Roadster such a thrashing it broke, except it really didn't break? Tesla does, and it's now filed suit against the BBC and Top Gear accusing the Beeb of defamation.

The test from the episode aired in December, 2008 involved a race between the Tesla Roadster and the gas-powered Lotus Elise it's based on. The show featured Jeremy Clarkson saying the Tesla ran out of charge at 55 miles (88km), with footage of it being pushed around a garage, ending with Clarkson saying "It's just a shame that in the real world it doesn't seem to work."

Shortly after it aired, Tesla said the Roadster never lost its charge, never needed to be pushed and asked Top Gear for some kind of retraction. After some sparring, the BBC admitted the footage of the push-powered Roadster was meant to show what could happen, saying the show fairly represented how the Tesla performed during tests.

With that episode still playing in repeats, available on DVD and now on Netflix streaming in the United States, Tesla says it was forced to act: "The BBC's conduct has given us no choice but to sue them and clear up their lies."

The BBC acknowledged the suit, but has yet to respond otherwise. Tesla, similarly, did not respond to our request for comment.

Our only question is — hasn't Tesla ever heard you never pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel? Or, more appropriately, in this case, TV shows with more viewers than you have electric cars to sell. Still, Top Gear crossed a line here — and we don't mean the number of miles you can drive on one full charge.

H/T to crom!



    I loved Top Gear, but it has become more and more contrived and manipulated.
    It is unnecessary; the show was a success before they started twisting it so much.
    It is at the stage where you can’t believe most of what they say.

      Agreed, i hope tesla makes a big buck out of this and TG have to make a public appology!

      Damn straight,.. not only that, but they early on developed a habit of annoying the crap of people on the street and around them by blocking streets and generally getting in the way of people who just want to get on with there own business, and basically getting the proverbial finger from Clarkson and Co... :[

    So what was then the go?? Did Top Gear forget to charge it properly?

    I remember that episode and was disapointed it didn't cut the mustard when Jezza actually gave it a flogging.

    Reviewing a product under "hypothetical, could happen" situations is basically lying. It didn't happen, so saying it "might" doesn't matter.

    I wonder if they would try pulling that crap with a major brand.

    "Well we had to cut short our review of the Mercedes when it caught fire, its wheels fell off, and poisonous fumes filled the cabin. Sure that didn't actually happen, but it 'could happen'"

    "Our only question is — hasn’t Tesla ever heard you never pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel?". Reminiscent of the original Tesla (Nikola) and his feud with J.P Morgan resulting in NO-ONE knowing who Tesla was (bar the U.S Government) for the next 100 years, and, all related to one thing: Capitolist greed. Do you really think a TV show thats main attraction is the love between man/woman and their beefy gas powered penile extensions is really going to sell something to viewers that promotes their downfall? Tesla roadsters are the way of the future, we just need to lift the cloud that is nazi-like governance to fully embrace it. Not to mention how much more we could have achieved if the original Tesla and his many many accomplishments (including radiant energy) were even recognised. Why is it a man who had over 270 patents died penny-less?

    Agreed the show has gone down hill the past few years... and in this case they think they are above the law and blatantly make a false statement which would no doubt tarnish the company's name/product. Now that they have such a huge number of viewers they have a responsibility to the manufacturers that lend them their cars.

    If you're watching Top Gear for informative consumer advice you're raving mad.

      why not? I bought a zetec ford fiesta after watching Clarkson drive it flat chat through a mall and it's been my favourite car I've ever owned...

        yeah, I agree, I actually thought the latest season was one of the best. I liked the contrived, completely over the top and, basically fictional stunts.

        but is IS important that they make it clear what is and isn't real... most the time you can tell what is and isn't tongue in cheek.

        I honestly thought that this is what happened when they tested the tesla, and why wouldn't I? they deserve to get sued for this.

    It is a tough call. The biggest problem with uptake of electric vehicles is range anxiety. Recent articles regarding the Nissan Leaf inexplicably stopping without warning don't help. Tesla has some good tech and I'm sure that they feel the need to clear the air over that. If a court case win resulted in Jeremy Clarkson giving a public apology on the show and re-reviewing the Tesla it would be worth it I reckon. Otherwise put the money into marketing.

    That really sucks. I remember the 55 mile claim well and have to say it really did taint my view of the car. That is very disappointing from Top Gear and whilst I'm a fan of the show I have to say they owe a retraction and deserve to go down for what they said.

    Tesla may be correct that driven sensibly the car can achieve over 55miles but i'm not to sure it was being driven sensibly. If you constantly boot the thing i'm pretty sure, like a petrol car, that it will consume more electricity/gas. Seems somewhat harsh if it didn't actually run out of power though, I remember being dissapointed not to see how fast it did a lap of the circut as they claimed it ran out of juice and couldn't complete it. I'm sure they completed it and i reckon it flogged every car on their list, thus the decision to not air the actual lap-time and replace with a "it ran out of juice" segment. Shame on the BBC but understandable as the big car companies would be less inclined to let 3 british morons drive million dollar cars otherwise

    Top Gear hosts = immature ideologues

    AHAHAHahahaha... sorry, no-one had a laugh, cos it's sooo funny.

    Topgear makes more per season then EVERY other BBC show. PUT TOGETHER.

    Tesla will have it's day, get it's money, Clarkson will say, "i'm sure you've heard, but i have to say i'm sorry for making out that you can't drive the tesla to the shop for milk and back without a re-charge. But you know you can't, and you know i'm not"

    Then Tesla will finish going broke.

      and you will continue to whinge to everyone about high petrol prices...


    The ex-Stig Ben Collins reviewed the new all electric Nissan Leaf.

    "Electric-powered vehicles were pioneered more than 100 years ago, so it's remarkable that the powers shaping human history have managed to conceal their advantages for so long."


    Does Tesla not watch Top Gear at all? You can't make a car without a thick skin because Clarkson et al will always make a crack at it.

    Clarkson has always been an automotive purist and Top Gear is a show for diehard car fans. In fact, one of the most reviled cars on the show is the Prius, which hasn't stopped THAT car being a runaway success. Besides May, the hosts just generally don't like 'diluted' cars, Tesla should stop bitching.

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