Tesla Sues Top Gear

For those of you unaware what is happening between Tesla and Top Gear we shall give a small recap. Tesla Motors claims that Top Gear faked the test with their car in the seventh episode of the twelfth season.

According to Tesla, the episode that aired contained lies and misinformation about the Roadster’s performance, behavior and reliability. The Californian company accuses Top Gear of defamation and malicious falsehood. So in the end Tesla is sueing Top Gear.

As a response Andy Wilman – Executive Producer of Top Gear – responded with an extensive story making a clear statement. The story can be found below. Feel free to share your thoughts.

You may know that Tesla has issued a writ against Top Gear for defamation and malicious falsehood over the road test that we broadcast of the Tesla Roadster in December 2008. The normal procedure for the BBC in a legal case is to acknowledge receipt of the other party’s claim, and then say no more and get on with preparing its defence for court.

Tesla, however, doesn’t seem content to wait for the legal eagles to settle matters. On the contrary, it’s been very busy promoting its side of the argument through the media. Why even last night the Top Gear office accidentally received an email sent from a Public Relations firm to The One Show, asking if it would like to have the Tesla spokesperson on their programme to talk about the case. It says: “PHA Media represent Tesla and this could make for a fantastic interview.” And the PHA man’s not finished there. “The presenters could have some fun with this.” He adds. “Matt and Alex could even take the Tesla for a spin and test it out, reaffirming its virtues?” Plenty of respect for editorial independence in that last line there and I wish the chaps from PHA Media all the best in their crusade.

However, back to Top Gear, and yes, normally we would follow the pre-legal etiquette of keeping schtum until we get our day in court, but since the other side are being quite noisy with their views on how we conduct ourselves, I just would like to point out one or two things to Top Gear viewers:

1. We never said that the Tesla’s true range is only 55 miles, as opposed to their own claim of 211, or that it had actually ran out of charge. In the film our actual words were: “We calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles”. The first point here is that the track is where we do our tests of sports cars and supercars, as has happened ever since Top Gear existed. This is where cars are driven fast and hard, and since Tesla calls its roadster “The Supercar. Redefined.” it seemed pretty logical to us that the right test was a track test. The second point is that the figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Tesla’s boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles.

2. We never said that the Tesla was completely immobilized as a result of the motor overheating. We said the car had “reduced power”. This was true.

3. Tesla claims we were lying when we said the brakes were “broken”. They now say that all that had happened was that the fuse to the vacuum pump had failed, which meant that the brake just had to be pushed down much harder than usual. Well – to my mind, if the brakes are broken, then they’re broken, and if this happened to your car, you’d take it to the garage to get it fixed. Odd it seems so trivial to Tesla now, because on the day of filming they insisted on repairing the fuse before we could carry on driving the car.

The above points will be argued over in the near future by brainy people wearing wigs, but in a layman’s nutshell, this is where we stand on the matter. Before I finish though, I must clear up one important issue: scripting. It’s alleged by Tesla that on the day of filming one of their employees caught sight of a script that had been written, before the car had even been driven, already containing the verdict that in the “real world” the Tesla doesn’t work. This, they say, proves our guilt, because we’d condemned the car in advance. May I just say in reply:

a) The truth is, Top Gear had already driven the car prior to filming, to enable us to form a view on it in advance

b) Our primary reasoning behind the verdict had nothing to do with how the Tesla performed; our conclusion was based mainly on the fact that it costs three times more than the petrol sports car upon which it’s based. It takes a long time to recharge, so you can’t use it as easily for the carefree motoring journeys that are a prerequisite of sports car driving. You can actually reach that conclusion without driving the car. As it happens, when it did come to the subjective area of how the car drove on the track, we were full of praise for its performance and handling.

c) Just so you understand there’s nothing devious going on, you need to know how this filming business works. When you film a car review, the reviewer is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind the lens is a film crew, and only a day’s worth of light to shoot the eight minute film. This means we have to prepare in advance a treatment – a rough draft of a script so that the director and film crew can get to work right away, knowing what shots they will need to capture. It will contain the facts about a car, and what we think of its looks and so on, but how well the car actually drives is added on the day. If we’ve driven it ahead of filming, as we do with most cars, we will also have an idea how it feels to drive. But, and this is crucial, as we uncover fresh information about a car whilst filming it, it is entirely normal for the treatment to be modified as the day unfolds. Jeremy is always tweaking the scripts to reflect what his driving experience has actually been on the day.

There you go. I’ve said my bit, and now we’ll hopefully shut up and prepare for our day in court.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I see tha the BBC is just at unreliable here as they are everywhere else. Most of what they said is either misleading or a flat out lie. TopGear showed a Tesla supposedly broken down being pushed off the road. That was pure fraud – the car was running fine. Now the idiots at TopGear and their equally dimwitted parent company are claiming they “really didn’t give that impression”, since they said something about the juice running dry after 55 miles. Implying that the Tesla can only travel 55 miles is utter nonsense, and TopGear knows it, as does everyone else who has only a superficial knowledge of the car. The EPA had already published their test results and given the Tesla a driving range of 240 miles. 240 miles is not 55, BBC, you lying Brits. And I’ve never seen an auto tester claim “the brakes are broken” especially when the brakes were
    in perfect working order. Apparently the “experts” at TopGear
    shorted out some fuses, but didn’t bother to mention anything about that. That, gentlemen, is also fraud. Funny how every other auto test magazine and TV show found no problems with the
    vehicle. I have often seen and learned of mechanical problems
    with cars submitted to testers, and never seen any tester declare that the car was “junk” simply because of it. Usually they don’t even mention it, since the cars are under warranty and the testers are not (and can not) test the auto’s reliability over a few days. Here is prima facie evidence that
    TopGear was testing the Tesla in a completely different manner
    than they tested other vehicles. As of now, the Tesla has logged over 10 million customer miles, and none of the “defects” claimed by TopGear have shown up. But TopGear, trying to squeeze the most value out of the 4 year old episode, is still broadcasting their tests, which have been, as we can see, been proven totally wrong. I never said the BBC wasn’t cheap. But they have for decades paid little attention to the truth.

  2. Ramon is just bitter hahahaha. truth of the matter, tesla won’t win this one in any court. the case will be lost or drag on for a long time, when Top Gear comes back on air they will make fun of tesla until the season ends. I look forward to JC’s Sarcasm.

  3. Americans should stop sueing everybody and everything over the smallest things, like anyone is taking the scripted Top Gear scenes or the crap Jeremy says seriously?

  4. First off, I’ve seen the episode and I knew even before they reviewed the Tesla that they’d hate it… Top Gear has always had a habit of promoting gas thirsty v12 engines (and that’s OK.. I like them too) and the legal language (with the 55 mpg on THEIR TRACK) is BS. No viewer actually cared it was on the Track and considered to be a general mileage.. As for the scripts and the “driving beforehand” it’s a shame for TopGear.. I mean I like Jeremy and the chaps, but when it comes to fair reviews, they tend to incline towards british auto makers and big engined (team-prepared especially for the TG track)Ferraris and away from the US auto makers or Renault made Dacia Sanderos..(which many of their bits are actuallyy funny :)) ) No matter the result, the tesla will be bashed on air by the chaps (with their legal-proof language) and then continue to make jokes on how fat the americans really are ..(which is true)

  5. I think Tesla have done really bad in the past two years then after that they wanted someone to blame for this disaster that they have developed, TG was an easy target I mean come on look how they trash Ferraris and porsches! Tesla go pick on someone else!

  6. I will admit, I’m a huge fan of Top Gear. I’m really not sure which way the court will favor in this case. In just watching the episode, I honestly thought BOTH Tesla’s had a severe issue. This is a slight misrepresentation by Top Gear. By watching the episode, I thought the Tesla was dead on the track, with exploded brakes. This could have been clarified better by Clarkson. However; Tesla needs to get their panties out of a bunch. The counter-argument for Libel is the truth. Although unclear, Clarkson never mentioned that any of these problems were fatal errors. Everything he stated was truth, it was just a little blurry as how it was represented. If I were to bet on a winner of the case I would definitely go with Top Gear.

  7. Top gear slams car makers all the time. They have good and bad points to make with most of the cars they test. If tesla is making such a big deal about it, they are obviously self conscious about something. AND TG did state that they estimated 55 miles of hard driving on their track, not 55 miles period. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I drove a corvette flat out and it only got 7 miles to the gallon even though the sticker on the car claims 18 city/22 hwy. If you drive a car full throttle it’s not gonna get the mileage that the manufacturer says it will get, electric OR gas!

  8. LOL, this is brilliant. Top Gear is not a legal car tester, they never were and neither have they ever claimed it. Almost all of their audience is there for a laugh. And for good reason, they would not be half so popular if they were not half so funny. Anyone trying to sue Top Gear should at least know that. Please stop being silly, you Americans and grow up. There really is no need to run to the courts like a little kid just as soon as something goes wrong. Anyone who takes what is said on Top Gear that seriously clearly has their issues of their own to sort out. If not, how do you think TG survived so long? Silly, silly Americans :P

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