Tesla sues BBC over Top Gear's 'staged' Roadster conk-out

Tesla Motors has filed a lawsuit against the Beeb for libel and malicious falsehood, claiming the show misrepresented its Roadster electric car's true range and lied about a brake failure.

Rory Reid
2 min read

Grab your popcorn -- the row between Tesla Motors and the BBC's Top Gear programme just got juicy. Tesla has filed a lawsuit against the Beeb for libel and malicious falsehood, claiming Top Gear misrepresented its Roadster electric sports car's true range and lied about a brake failure.

The episode in question, first broadcast in 2008, showed Jeremy Clarkson driving a Roadster that appeared to power down unexpectedly. The car was pushed from the track into a garage, where Clarkson claimed the Roadster was only capable of going for 55 miles around the Top Gear test circuit -- some 145 miles less than Tesla's official figure.

Clarkson then went on to claim a second Roadster on loan had suffered a brake failure, which meant the programme was unable to continue their review.

Following the show, Tesla said the alleged breakdowns were staged. The company revealed that at no point did either of the two Roadsters it had loaned to the show dip below 20 per cent charge and that there were no brake failures on either car.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC challenged Tesla's interpretation of events and claimed the footage of the Roadster running out of juice was merely illustrative of what would happen if the batteries were exhausted.

"At no time did we claim that the cars ran out of charge," said a spokesperson. "When the car began to lose power we included a voiceover which stated: 'And if it does run out it's not a quick job to charge it up again.' Top Gear stands by the findings in this film and is content that it offers a fair representation of the Tesla's performance on the day it was tested."

The situation between the two organisations appeared to have died down after these initial exchanges, but it appears Tesla Motors wants the Roadster review to be corrected or taken out of circulation.

"Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they've repeatedly ignored Tesla's requests," the company said in a statement.

The BBC, it would appear, isn't about to back down. Its own spokespeople have said: "We can confirm that we have received notification that Tesla have issued proceedings against the BBC. The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim."

Which side of the fence do you stand on? Was Top Gear wrong to depict the Roadster being pushed from the race track as if it had run out of juice? Was this scene representative of what life with an electric car is really like? Is Tesla Motors throwing its toys out of the pram for no good reason? Is it all the fault of Freeview channel Dave, for showing Top Gear for 18 hours every day?

Have a gander at the clip in question and let us know how you feel in the comments below. When you're done, make sure you check out our own video review of the Roadster Sport Signature 250 edition.