Following last week’s shock announcement that Tesla is suing BBC’s Top Gear for libel and malicious falsehood stemming from a review of its all-electric Roadster, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman has released insight on the topic coming from the show’s side.
Due to the ongoing nature of the legal proceedings, Wilman's comments were quite reserved though he was quick to point out that Tesla is going to great lengths to promote its argument, with one of its PR firms even contacting another BBC program, The One Show, to see if it wanted to do an interview with a Tesla spokesman and take its Roadster for a spin.
As for the lawsuit, these are some of the defenses Top Gear will argue, as revealed by Wilman:
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.
As for claims that Top Gear had condemned the Roadster in advance and was always going to give it a bad rating as per the on-air review, Wilman explained that the car was driven extensively before the review and that even without driving it the Roadster falls short--due to pricing and charge times--when next to a comparable gasoline-powered car.
So there you have a brief account of the thinking inside Top Gear. Now we’ll have to wait until court proceedings are revealed. Nevertheless, 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.