Tesla Sues Top Gear Over Roadster 'Lies'

By · March 30, 2011

Tesla has notified the BBC of its intent to sue the television show Top Gear for libel over what it says are misleading claims made about the Tesla Roadster in an episode that was first broadcast more than two years ago. In a blog post on its website, the carmaker said it was fine looking the other way when the show first aired, but that repeat broadcasts have persisted without any effort to correct what it called “lies and misinformation about the Roadster’s performance, behavior and reliability."

The specific charges, as quoted from Tesla's website:

1. The Roadster ran out of charge and had to be pushed into the Top Gear hangar by four men.

2. The Roadster’s true range is only 55 miles per charge (not 211).

3. The Roadster’s motor overheated and was completely immobilized.

4. The other Roadster’s brakes were broken, rendering the car undriveable.

5. Neither of the two Roadsters provided to Top Gear was available for test driving due to these problems.

This isn't the first time that the Roadster has crossed paths with the BBC concerning distorted claims about electric vehicles. Earlier this year, BBC reporter Brian Milligan made a successful four-day journey of 484 miles from London to Edinburgh in a Mini E—stopping along the way to recharge as needed. To emphasize the power of currently available electric cars to achieve vasty superior ranges to that of a BMW-produced test car that was never intended to go to market, a British Roadster owner jumped into his vehicle during the last leg of the reporter's journey and beat him to Edinburgh in less than a day.

The BBC says it will fight the suit.

If you'd like to watch the Top Gear segment and judge for yourself, check it out below:


· Neil (not verified) · 7 years ago

I say fight the suit BBC, the last thing that I want to see is censorship on electric cars reporting. Based upon what I see, its just balanced critizism showing the good and the bad. If the two Tesla cars were having problem, then report it I think the buying public has a right to know and the company should address the issues.

· · 7 years ago

@Neil: "If the two Tesla cars were having problem, then report it I think the buying public has a right to know and the company should address the issues."

Problem is, Tesla claims the cars weren't having problems - the breakdowns were staged but never identified as staged.

· · 7 years ago

The segment was a hit piece. BBC needs to hang their head in shame ...

· · 7 years ago

I have mixed feelings about this. Do I think TG provided an accurate depiction of the days events? NO. Do I think their anti-EV bias shined brightly through the episode? YES.

However I'm not sure what Tesla really has a shot at accomplishing anything. TG never said the Roadsters true range was 55 miles. Only that they "worked out" it would only have a range of 55 miles while driving it as hard as they were on a racetrack. I wonder what the car's range would be if they drove around a racetrack at 125mph until it ran out, probably not too much more than that. Remember they did say they "worked out", they never said it ran out and had to be pushed. They showed a visual of the car being pushed but didn't say it needed to be pushed, only that it could happen. Of course it could happen, any car could need to be pushed. As for the brakes, Tesla says that the brakes didn't fail mechanically, but a fuse blew and needed to be replaced. That's still a malfunction and needed to have the fuse changed. The problem with how TG reported it. Tesla say's they immediately replaced the fuse and the car was available within minutes, not what TG reported, but it is their right to report that there was a breakdown.

Again, TG didn't really represent the whole truth here, but is it enough to prove libel? I'm not sure. Personally I think it makes Tesla look a bit petty worrying about this. Anyone that can't see that TG is dripping with EV hatred wasn't going to be a potential Tesla customer anyway.

· Stephen Taylor (not verified) · 7 years ago

This was the first time I had seen the show in question. I guess if they are driving it around the track like they were showing, 55 miles might be it and if you drive it like a maniac then maybe the motor will get hot and force you to reduced performance. Of course when the motor got hot, they said reduced performance and then showed it stopped dead in its tracks. Which was it, dead or reduced performance? Of course we all know that the harder we drive our EVs the less range we are going to get. What they don't say is that the Roadster is actually very easy to drive conservatively. The accelerator gives you a very wide band to modify how much power you want to give the car and I have found I can drive the car using less than 200 WHs per mile if I try. That will easily get me into the 200 mile plus range..

If Tesla is right that the reporters were making things up to make the car look bad, those reporters should be publicly called to prove that they were telling the truth and if they refuse to do so which appears to be the case, then Tesla should put them into a court and make them prove it there.

· · 7 years ago

Im a big fan of Top Gear as an entertainment show, but i have to agree with Tesla on this point. Whether Jeremy Clarkson or the Producers at the BBC like it of not in less than 20 years most of the cars bought will be either electric or plug in hybrid vehicles, and what Top Gear did in this review could damage the whole emerging industry of electric vehicles. I think that pointing out the limitations of the range on an electric vehicle is a valid and important point but to claim they have "worked out it will run out after just 55miles" and then show a clip of them pushing the car is more than a little misleading if those events did not actually take place. Im also surprised that Tesla are not asking for a full on air apology from the show. Top Gear had an episode where they filled several supercars with just 1 gallon of petrol and drove around the track to see how far they would go before running out. The Audi R8 did best with 5mpg and as it has a fuel tank of 75litres i work that out to mean it will run out in just over 82 miles where as the Ferrari 599 managed just 1.7 mpg and has a fuel tank of 105litres which means it will run out after just 23 miles. When compared to these figures the 55miles of the Tesla doesn't sound so bad.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 7 years ago

Top Gear is meant as entertainment. It might be nice for gullible Americans if there were a big asterisk on the show now and then, but that's not the way British humor (perhaps I should say humour) runs.

The one good thing about pursuing a lawsuit is that it gives Top Gear a chance to make more fun of Tesla and themselves at the same time. They could do a bit comparing mileage estimates of a number of vehicles, including EVs, as senna007 noted. (Something on the order of: "the EPA says this 600 horsepower Dodge gets 12 mpg. We prove it actually gets under 3 mpg!", etc.)

· · 7 years ago

They should also get sued for calling the company "Tezzla" in the beginning.

A biased piece against electrics. How is pushing the car to the limits on a track "real world"? How can you call a car "Biblical" one minute and talk so poorly about it the next?

This isn't helping the world move forward and I'm glad Tesla is standing up for themselves.

· · 7 years ago

I suspect this is more of a marketing activity for Tesla, rather than a true legal activity. When TG aired the show a couple of years ago they were called out on their disingenuous reporting. TG had egg on their face and they lost a lot of credibility for their reviews. But after two years many may not know, or have forgotten, TG faked their reported Tesla issues. So what better way to remind folks, and gather some new sympathy on Tesla's part, than to sue the BBC. The best defense is a great offense. Tesla have nothing to loose with this law suite. The BBC is being dragged through the mud, again, on this one and can't be happy at all. Recall TG admitted they faked it. Tesla will prevail in the courts. However, the damage award will likely be nascent. The BBC stands to be the big looser as their credibility is called into question on this issue yet again.

· · 7 years ago

@Chris T. "but that's not the way British humor (perhaps I should say humour) runs."

If the audience can't make out what is faked and what is not, then it is not humourous. No, TG is not Colbert Report.

· · 7 years ago

Tesla needs to lighten up. If they watched the show, just about every car gets panned. Besides, the Tesla make a pretty good showing overall, and matched the 911 GT3 for track time.

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