Tesla sues Top Gear over "rigged" electric car test

Illustration for article titled 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. UPDATE


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, 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.


UPDATE: Late Tuesday night, Tesla unveiled what can only be described as a marketing push for its lawsuit, complete with its own mini-website: www.teslavstopgear.com. Tesla contends that it's still receiving questions from potential customers based on the Top Gear test, and that the BBC has refused to acknowledge Tesla's complaints for several months.

"We're not doing this for money," said Ricardo Reyes, Tesla's communications chief. "As the world leader in EV technology, Tesla owes it to the public to stop Top Gear's disinformation campaign and provide the truth."


You can read Tesla's lawsuit here.

H/T to crom!


Fred Smith

this is a pretty common sense scenario. the 200 mile claim revolves around economical driving, but clarkson doesn't exactly drive economically.

also, I don't care how rigged that top gear test was, I'm still not a fan of tesla in any way. musk is being hailed as a hero by the general media, but in reality all he's done is created the world's most famous manufacturer of vaporware and placed some batteries in an existing chassis, then selling the car for 3 times the price of the (slightly better in the real world) petrol version. also, let's not forget that the difference in efficiency between a battery powered car charged by internal combustion and a car powered by internal combustion through an onboard motor isn't really all that great, certainly not enough to make up for the added environmental effect of those fancy lithium ion batteries.

after all, I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather drive a high performance sports car with what I've heard is around 40 real-world MPG, great reliability and nearly no weight than an electric car that weighs a bit more, costs three times as much, is MORE harmful to the environment, can't travel more than 200 miles in between day-long charges and, at the end of the day, is just about equal in performance to the original model.