Tesla libel appeal against Top Gear dismissed

Tesla Roadster
Tesla Roadster

top gear

Tesla, the well known electric car company, recently lost a libel claim against Top Gear, the popular BBC car show, in British court for the 2nd time.

Tesla Motors first complained about a December 2008 Top Gear episode after it aired since it was critical of the company’s Tesla Roadster electric car. The company was upset that Jeremy Clarkson, one of Top Gear hosts, made the statement that the battery ran out after 55 miles of driving on its test track.  Tesla pointed out that the Tesla Roadster can get 200+ miles on public roads and in real world driving.

Last year Tesla lost these libel claims by a different judge in a separate case.  This was an appeal to that decision in the British court of appeals and now most likely will firmly put a stop to any additional legal action from the California company about the 2008 episode.

The two justices presiding over the Tesla vs. Top Gear appeal case said Tesla failed to prove that Top Gear harmed their reputation and cost them the sale of 200 Tesla Roadsters. “Moreover, on the basis of the material currently before the court I do not think that there is any real prospect of Tesla’s being able to demonstrate at trial that it has suffered any quantifiable loss by reason of any of the actionable statements.” said Lord Justice Moore-Bick who oversaw the case with Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Rimer.

Tesla’s claim in the libel case against Top Gear was that it used “staged” film to show that it’s Tesla Roadster ran out of battery charge before the electric car actually did.  Also Top Gear showed a clip of a brake failure which made the Tesla Roadster immobile and caused overheating to occur.

Tesla was upset that the syndication of that Top Gear episode continued on TV stations and BBC outlets.  The company had stated before, “Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they’ve repeatedly ignored Tesla’s requests.”  Additionally Telsa wanted copies of the episode on DVD to stop being sold to the public.  (Seriously? That is kind of an absurd thing to demand!)

Elon Musk, one of Tesla’s co-founders and the CEO, recently had a spat with the New-York Times over a negative piece John Broder wrote about it’s new sedan, the Tesla Model S.  Elon Musk on Tesla’s official blog showed that John Broder was in fact was not entirely honest in his article.  However, Tesla was not so lucky in this Top Gear case.

CarNewsCafe’s Take

Top Gear globally has an audience of over 300+ million people and airs in many different languages and countries.  It is understandable Tesla was upset over the Top Gear episode, but Jeremy Clarkson did have good things to say about the Tesla Roadster in the episode. “I cannot believe this – that’s biblically quick. This car is electric, literally. The top speed may only be 125mph but there’s so much torque it does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. Not bad from a motor the size of a watermelon and which has only one moving part.”  Those were the exact words uttered by the Top Gear host on that episode.

It is important to note thought that the Tesla Roadster was not driven on public roads, but Top Gear’s test track. Andy Williams, Top Gear’s Executive Producer, responded to the claims by Tesla on the Top Gear Transmission Blog on April 2nd, 2011 with this important point, “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.” Meaning when driven hard, like most cars are on Top Gear, the battery will deplete faster.

I think Tesla is a great and innovative company and like what Elon Musk is trying to do with electric cars.  It just seems crazy to me that they would keep pursuing this libel claim.  Get back to the drawing board and work on creating the next amazing electric car!

What do you think?  Let us know with a comment below.

[Source – Guardian]

Adam Yamada-Hanff
Adam has always loved cars and anything with wheels. When he is not writing about interesting stories you might find him jamming on his saxophone, watching movies, creating art, or playing with his two dogs.