Tesla sues Top Gear over Roadster 'lies'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Tesla is suing the BBC over a Top Gear program two years ago that it says falsely maligned its Roadster electric car.

The company says it didn't do anything at the time because it thought it could ride the criticism out. But with Top Gear's increasing popularity - and a number of reruns - it's now decided to take action.

The offending item showed the car suffering several breakdowns, and ended with Jeremy Clarkson's concluding that "in the real world, it doesn’t seem to work," - a line that Tesla claims was written before the cars were even tested.

"The programme's lies are repeatedly and consistently re-broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers on BBC channels and web sites, on other TV channels via syndication; the show is available on the Internet, and is for sale on DVD around the world," says vice president of communications Ricardo Reyes.

"Today, we continue to field questions and explain the serious misconceptions created by the show."

Reyes says the company has repeatedly written to the BBC, asking it to stop repeating the show. He cites 'lies' including the assertion that the Roadster's true range is only 55 miles per charge, rather than the 200 that Tesla says has been certified by the relevant authorities.

Further, he says, the cars' own records show that it didn't run out of charge, or even come close. Nor, he says, did the brakes fail - only the power brakes.

Suing over reviews is fraught with difficulty, as they're generally protected by a 'fair comment' clause. But if Top Gear really did invent a breakdown, that defense wouldn't apply. Either way, the case should be good publicity for what's still a small company.