Tesla sues 'Top Gear'

Tesla Motors filed suit against TV show "Top Gear" over a misrepresentation of its Roadster electric car.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Tesla Roaster
Tesla filed suit against "Top gear" for its misrepresentation of the Roadster. Tesla

At first glance, the idea of Tesla suing "Top Gear" over a review of the Roadster that occurred three years ago seems pointless, especially throwing in the fact that "Top Gear," and host Jeremy Clarkson, have a huge international following. But it is precisely the size of that following, and the longevity of the "Top Gear" episode featuring the Tesla Roadster, that spurred the action.

Tesla filed suit against "Top Gear" for libel and malicious falsehood. In the "Top Gear" episode containing the review, Clarkson claimed that the Roadster, as tested on the track, had a range of only 55 miles. The show also portrayed both Roadster models supplied to the show as breaking down and running out of electricity, halting testing.

Using the cars' own data, Tesla says it can prove the battery levels never got below 20-percent charge while being used by "Top Gear." Tesla also points out that the EU regulatory body certified the range of the Roadster at 211 miles. One car apparently did have a fuse for the power brakes blow out, but mechanical braking still worked. Tesla says that "Top Gear" scripted the segment, complete with portrayals of dead batteries, before testing even began.

Tesla VP of Communications Ricardo Reyes writes of the lawsuit in the Tesla blog, "It is the only recourse we have; our repeated attempts to contact the BBC, over the course of months, were ignored." He points out that "Top Gear" continues to rebroadcast the episode and sell DVDs featuring the segment.

"Top Gear" currently has its video review of the Tesla hosted on its site. It is also not hard to find the video on YouTube.

People have posted comments on the Internet that "Top Gear's" review was faked, and many fans of the show recognize that many of its segments are staged. "Top Gear" occasionally gets itself embroiled in controversy, such as in a recent episode when the hosts promulgated a negative stereotype of Mexican nationals. That episode earned it a letter from the Mexican ambassador to the U.K.

Tesla says it is not interested in making money from the suit, but wants to correct the negative impressions "Top Gear" is giving about the Roadster.