Breaking: Tesla Sues BBC's Top Gear For Libel And Malicious Falsehood

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Tesla versus Top Gear

Tesla versus Top Gear

Tesla is no stranger to lawsuits, having been on both the receiving end and acting as instigator in several nasty cases in the recent past. The Californian electric car startup is now at it again, this time taking on the formidable forces of the BBC, more specifically the network’s Top Gear program, for libel and malicious falsehood.

Tesla served Top Gear with a lawsuit yesterday, claiming that it had no other recourse. The company claims that it reluctantly took legal action after its repeated attempts to contact the BBC, over the course of months, were ignored.

The issue in concern stems from an episode of the popular television show that aired almost two years ago.

According to Tesla, Top Gear’s on air review of its electric Roadster “contained lies and misinformation about the Roadster’s performance, behaviour and reliability”. In the episode, Tesla Roadsters are depicted as suffering several critical “breakdowns” during track driving. Host Jeremy Clarkson concludes the episode by saying that in the real world the Roadster "doesn’t seem to work"

Tesla claims that Top Gear misrepresented the company along these following points:

   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. One Roadster’s motor overheated and was completely immobilized as a result.

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

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

According to Tesla, the breakdowns were staged, making most of Top Gear’s claims about the Roadster untrue. Tesla states that it can prove Top Gear’s tests were falsified due to the recordings of its cars' onboard data-loggers. Allegedly, neither Roadster ran out of charge during Top Gear's tests, or even came close.

Remember, Top Gear is one of the most popular automotive shows on the planet, reaching an audience of more than 350 million viewers, so there’s certainly some clout in Tesla’s claims. In fact, to this day, Tesla continues to field questions and explain what it claims are misconceptions created by the show.

Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting the particular episode and to correct the record.

You can rest assure, the MotorAuthority team will keep you updated on the topic. In the meantime, here's a link to a video of the review in question.

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Comments (26)
  1. Suing doesn't undo whatever negative perception was brought on by that episode. Suing at this juncture only serves to bring some false sense of justice to Tesla. For a young auto company, Tesla better learn to grow some thicker skin. This won't be the last time their cars are misrepresented, and Top Gear does this sort of trickery/staging all the time.

  2. Go for it Tesla. I don't watch Top Gear now because it has become a mine of misinformation, on many fronts. In my opinion it is nothing more than tatty tabloid journalism....

  3. Are you telling me that people to dont have the right to their own opinions? People can no longer talk negatively or positively about a product openly? Sheesh!!! What if I start a car mag and do a zero to 60 and I state that (on that day) I got 4.1 seconds when you say it should have done 3.7... are you going to sue me and tell me to stop printing? Why waste the money on costly litigation in this crazy economy. Next time send a Tesla representative with your cars!!! its cheaper!!!

  4. it's hard to believe you can even type if you are that stupid, yes, you have a right to an opinion, just as my opinion of you is that you are uneducated and ignorant, and probably can't drive. facts are different, that's why they are called facts and why we have laws to protect people from libel, i feel sorry for you if you base your life on tv shows with their "facts".

  5. I am surprised EVERYONE hasn't sued TOP GEAR by now. Their main purpose is to push British products and bash Americans. Clarkson is the biggest ***hole on TV, next to Bin Ladin of course.

  6. Phil - everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not there own facts. Your example a discrepancy of a difference in 0-60 times provides 2 facts, why the difference exists would then be subject to further determination.
    Tesla's accusations, if correct, are that Top Gear fabricated the facts, e.g. that the car only got 50mi on a charge or that a component failed. If TG can not show that indeed that reporting is accurate then they are guilty of distortion and lies. That is not opinion.

  7. Given their sales volume; suing might become a source of income this year for the company. No cash was mentioned above but it hasn't gotten to court yet.

  8. I agreed with Phil! I doubt Top Gear will stage such a thing just for show rating, doesn't sounds right and doing that will open a door for trouble. Unless its for jest, usually on the older vehicles.

  9. I'm done with that show! Tesla is a bold and pioneering car company despite which country it hails from! Car guys want to know what the heck this car can do honestly! They make a living trashing expensive cars and laughing all the way to the bank. Not on my dime!

  10. Considering the BBC is a coorperation that had to admit that some of its phone in competitions were faked and that in fact the lucky caller was really a production assisstant working on the show.
    Personally I'd like to see the roadster back on the show, with a lap time. Or if they used it in a distance challenge? Prove the 211 mile range.

  11. I think Tesla needs to grow a pair and move on. As for their product, its badge engineering at its finest and not good badge engineering at that. I often see you guys (Tesla that is) at the Coffee and Cars event in Irvine and that begs one question. For 100K does the moisture behind the head lamps come for free or do I pay extra for that.....

  12. Well, having re-watched it just now, I can't see what's Tesla's point:
    1)TG tested the range AT THE TRACK, cause it's a SPORTS CAR. No one claimed it's 55 miles on the road.
    2)When the motor overheated the car would still move(reduced power safety mode) it was NOT COMPLETELY IMMOBILISED.
    3)If the brakes of ANY car are not fully operational IT'S NOT DRIVABLE.
    Tesla should really concentrate more on engineering a better car than blaming and suing everyone to try to cover up their own inadequate marketing and engineering. If it's not able to be a sports car then DO NOT MARKET IT AS ONE.

  13. Tesla complaint also includes that TG were wrong because they tested the car driving fast instead of slow. Its a sports car, people want to drive them fast. This is an issue letric car makers want to hide, their milage figures are based on unreal driving. While petrol cars use more fuel when they go faster, it is much worse for eletric cars.
    If Tesla were interested in pursuing this why now 2 years later when damage already done? because it is cheap to file a suit but they get a lot of free media attention

  14. I wonder how many of those saying Tesla should "grow a pair" would change their tune if one of their products was lied about to 1/3 of a billion people.

  15. If Tesla wants to make a point, challenge Top Gear to a road test. They pick whatever $100,000 British gas car they want. They put in enough gas in the car to equal the manufacturer's claim of 211 miles. Then put them side by side on the roads of England, with a Tesla driver in one, and Jeremy Clarkson in the other. Car that goes the furthest wins. Given Jeremy's driving habits, he'll be racing along at 90mph, and will be out of gas in 100 miles. Then the Tesla can glide past him, go another 100 odd miles, and the point is made.

  16. Everyone knows that Top Gear is just a very funny fiction program. A friend of mine once saw them in action in the French Alps during one of their "races": they unloaded the cars from trucks at the bottom of a hill and drove up a short stretch of twisting road, followed by the trucks which then picked them back up to bring them to the next stretch of the "race". However, it seems that they went a little too far with Tesla, claiming breakdowns that didn't really happen. If this is true, Tesla has every right to sue. They deserve the free publicity, too.

  17. Everyone knows that Top Gear is just a very funny fiction program. A friend of mine once saw them in action in the French Alps during one of their "races": they unloaded the cars from trucks at the bottom of a hill and drove up a short stretch of twisting road, followed by the trucks which then picked them back up to bring them to the next stretch of the "race". However, it seems that they went a little too far with Tesla, claiming breakdowns that didn't really happen. If this is true, Tesla has every right to sue. They deserve the free publicity, too.

  18. What a bunch of whining, crying little pissants.
    Firstly I thought the review was very positive. Biblical acceleration, faster than a Porsche GT3 through their test track. Faster through the course than the Lotus it's design is based on. $4 vs $40 to fill up compared to a gas powered Elise.
    Also.. This is over 2 years ago. When the Tesla was new. That it had some reliability problems that were brought out by flogging it to death on a power track isn't at all surprising. TG has broken more than 1 car on their test track. The Caparo T1 had to have an engineering team on the track to keep putting it back together. The Carbon Fiber Pagani Zonda roadster lunched an engine. They almost totaled a Koneigsegg when it went spinning off their track.
    And funny. You don't hear the makers of these ultra exotic cars whining.
    Which brings us to the next. It's a FREAKING RACE TRACK. All the cars there are tested in tire smoking, power sliding, pedal to the floor high speed laps. They also film the cars in that manner to get the most exciting shots. And they do it over and over and over and over and over again. I thought it was a serious testament to the car that it made it 55 miles under those conditions and that their 200 mile real world range claims may have some merit.
    The environmentalist weenies have their panties in a wad because the TG folks didn't simply lie down and worship the car as the greatest thing on Earth. I hope they get hammered in court.

  19. Agreed. It is the most positive review I have seen of Tesla, any electric/hybrid car I have ever seen yet they are complaining? if you send a non-petrol car to a petrol head show and come out with any good results it is clearly (to anyone with at least 1/2 a brain) a winner. Tesla suggesting that they should have driven the car with brake fault showing is suggesting Tesla as a company does not value safety. Strike one. Tesla saying that TG said the other car was unusable is also not right. Clarkson said the motor overheat warning came on and power was restricted. By itself a good measure of safety measures working but Tesla again says it was wrong and they should have kept driving. Strike 2. Then suing? Strike 3. You're out Tesla.

  20. @Blakwing: Your post so very clearly says why Tesla is suing. You and many other viewers, because of the show, think Tesla cars have mechanical and range issues. Tesla claims that the onboard computers prove TG was LYING about the problems they "encountered". If TG was lying, that is the very definition of lawsuit quality slander.

  21. i watched the TG show and came away thinking Tesla looks good. Then I hear Tesla is suing BBC. I went through it all again and have decided that maybe the car is okay (as I originally thought) but the company is cr@p. Don't buy Tesla car or shares.

  22. Tesla admits to the two mechanical breakdowns that TG reported but they're trying to use technicalities to defend their cars.
    Tesla admits car 1 had a fuse blow out the power brakes. TG says this rendered the car undriveable but Tesla contends it wasn't immobile so it could have been driven. Most people won't drive their cars under normal conditions when the brakes are indicating a severe problem, let alone take it on a track.
    Car 2 had the motor overheat, also not in dispute. Tesla's complaint is that this did not in fact shut down the car, merely (severely) degrade it's performance. Again, most people would not drive a car that was indicating it was overheating.
    According to Clarkson it was while they were waiting for car 2 to cool down that they tried to use car 1 only to discover the braking issue, so while neither car was technically immobile, at that time neither was either car working at anywhere near advertised performance.

  23. What a pack of pansies this Tesla mob must be. They must be pretending to follow in Tesla's footsteps in being a complete nut job and an embarisment to the entire scientific community.
    You didnt see Koenigsegg having a cry and suing Top gear when the Stig crashed their car. No they used it as a positive testing experience and improved their design. And then came back and proved it worked!
    Same deal as the Caparo T1.
    If Tesla want any hope of being taken seriously they should fix their car and take it back for another test!

  24. Tesla, are a bunch of pussies and give us Americans a bad name, A relative of mine has a tesla roadster and its a piece of garbage! Fix your crap and quit trying to sue to make a profit!

  25. i have always watched topgear just to see the cars, the show itself is a joke. when orange county chopper started all this staged crap and rehearsed garbage it ruined any show aired after. it's hard to blame the networks because the morons watching would rather see garbage than the real world. i have watched and read everything i could get my hands on about the tesla since the company started. for a company to build an automobile like this when the "big" guys couldn't should be commended, not lied about. anyone that is familiar with automotive history knows what gm ford and chrysler are capable of. they have always took out their competition any way necessary. one could only hope that viewers realize that the show is just that, a tv show

  26. I watched the video and thought wow - the best electric car yet and up there with a Porche GT3 on the lap board. Only 55 miles on a charge on the track, but we all know that on a race track a tank of fuel is only going to give about 100 miles on a car giving 300 miles on the road in normal driving, so that isn't bad. Clarkson stated it was great in a load of differetn ways including saying that it is officially snowing in hell(in response to previous statements about petrol being unbeatable) so all in all not a bad revue. Compare it to his slating of the Prius and you will see the Tesla came out well ahead. Finally, hey, at least we have all heard of the Tesla now and that it is progressing as an electric car manufacturer.

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