Top Gear did not libel Tesla Motors, UK court rules

Illustration for article titled Top Gear did not libel Tesla Motors, UK court rules

Tesla Motors has lost a major part of its high court libel claim against Top Gear, the BBC's hit motoring show, but is still suing the corporation for malicious falsehood over an episode that showed the company's Roadster model running out of battery during multiple runs around their Dunsfold track.


Ruling at the high court in London on Wednesday, Justice Tugendhat said no Top Gear viewer would have, or could have, reasonably compared the car's performance on the show's track to its likely performance on a public road.

Luckily, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is always so well known for being totally reasonable.

According to the Guardian, Tugendhat said:

"In my judgment, the words complained of are wholly incapable of conveying any meaning at all to the effect that the claimant [Tesla] misled anyone.

"This is because there is a contrast between the style of driving and the nature of the track as compared with the conditions on a public road […] are so great that no reasonable person could understand that the performance on the [Top Gear] track is capable of a direct comparison with a public road."

Yeah, Elon, so there!

Top Gear's Andy Wilman said in April that he believed the lawsuit was more about Tesla trying to promote themselves. With this clear ruling, it's becoming more likely that Andy may have been right. (Hat tip to Anders!)



Matt Brown

I drove a Tesla on an autocross track. It lost about 5 miles per 60 second lap (don't know the distance) and on the way home it was right on track with miles. I also had about 5 people at the track tell me something like "Did you see that top gear? You're gonna run out of charge on track and we're gonna have to tow you off!"

I finished my runs and then drove 80 miles home.

Technically speaking, the reduced mileage was on par with what Top Gear saw on their track. But the perceptions that people had, shaped in large part by that episode, was much worse. Top gear said "Tesla says it will do 200 miles but we worked out that on our track, it would run out of charge after just 55 miles." What they did there was compare two different things: normal road driving (they said 200) and track driving (we say 55) as though they were comparable. It's not a solid legal argument, but they conveyed the message that Tesla was wrong about the 200 mile thing. People got the impression that it would run out of charge, possibly at random, and only after a few miles. Real, reasonable people that I talked to.

Cable news does this shit all the time. It's not technically lying, it's not illegal, but its dishonest and unfair to both the viewers and the subject of the show. Should they have sued? Maybe not, but maybe that was the best way to call them out on it.