Tesla Losing Libel Case With Top Gear In UK High Court

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Tesla versus Top Gear

Tesla versus Top Gear

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A Tesla Roadster may not have really whirred to a halt in the 2008 episode of Top Gear - since at the center of a long, drawn out legal battle - but the maker's court case against the BBC programme is definitely running out of juice.

A ruling in favor of Top Gear has struck a blow to Tesla's libel battle against the car-themed entertainment show.

Tesla made claims that the 55 mile range attained by Jeremy Clarkson in the episode gives viewers a false impression of the car's actual 200-mile range. Tesla says that the episode has had "continuing impact" on its business thanks to the show being continually repeated on TV channels and through DVD sales.

According to The Guardian, Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that "the words complained of are wholly incapable of conveying any meaning at all to the effect that the claimant [Tesla] misled anyone... there is a [great] contrast between the style of driving and the nature of the track as compared with the conditions on a public road."

Tesla has made several other claims against the show, including using pre-scripted footage of the Roadster grinding to a halt and characterizing a blown fuse as brake failure, as well as claims of overheating.

The rest of the case is still ongoing, but the BBC contests that the entire claim should be struck out.

Whether Top Gear misled viewers or not, Tesla is now on the back foot. We can't now see the rest of its claim standing up in court. Still, Top Gear might now find it difficult getting hold of a Tesla Model S to review when it arrives...


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Comments (7)
  1. Tesla should drop the case, Jeremy bashes plenty of cars by making them look faulty. It's not like they were the first to get bashed on Top Gear and they won't be the last either. I don't know how anyone could take the Tesla episode seriously, after the Tesla they demonstrated a V8 powered rocking chair for the elderly.

  2. Although I agree that Tesla should drop the case, I strongly disagree with CDspeed's comment about "Jeremy bashes plenty of cars by making them look faulty." Until I got tired of the ignorant nonsense from Jeremy, I watched TG for years and I've never seen another car "fake" not running.
    Or, a 55 mike range instead of 300? When was the last time the TG guys reviewed an ICE vehicle and stated that the emissions were 6-7 times higher than rated? The correct answer is never, of course.
    They artifically went out of their way to blatantly lie and make the car look worse than it is.
    Of course, the show itself has become a joke, with its bizarre Lancia and Jaguar obsession shared by almost nobody else. Truly low-brow comedy and nothing else.

  3. For example Jeremy hates Porsches, when he first drove the 997 911 he said he kept hitting the seat memory buttons with his knee putting the seat in his wife's driving position, he then proceeded to drive the car with his face nearly pressed up against the windshield. He usually blows smaller things out of proportion, but since he really hates the idea of going green he made the Tesla look as though it didn't even work. I'm surprised you haven't noticed this, watch his test drive of the 911 GT2 or the BMW M5. I love Top Gear and yes it is low-brow comedy, but there are allot of people who don't take the time to separate fact from fiction, and that is what is bothering Tesla.

  4. I like the term "car-themed entertainment show". Even more accurate would be "car-themed clown show" and yet more accurate might be "car themed show by greedy clowns willing to throw in some subliminal messages with their mischief if it were made worth their while by the oil or car industry". Messages that would reach a huge audience and could have an enormous impact on attitudes.

    Because that's the thing the judge clearly did not understand: Top Gear's greatest trick is that it managed to convince it's critics that it's just about entertainment and it's fans that it's about facts.

  5. @Chris O and CDspeed. I could not agree more. I missed the 997 911 one, but yes, they absolutely hate German cars, at least 95% of the time. Because so few shows compare exotic cars, I sued to love TG. After a couple of years of watching blatant racism and shows dishonestly structured to make it seem that things happened that really did not, I hate it and just wish the American version wasn't so bad.
    "Because that's the thing the judge clearly did not understand: Top Gear's greatest trick is that it managed to convince it's critics that it's just about entertainment and it's fans that it's about facts."
    Yes, Chris, perfectly put, IMHO. Because it's seen as the gospel for many when it comes to transport.

  6. The judge is obviously biased. I watched this show and it was definitely biased against Tesla and every other show I have seen showcases EVs negatively and then their 2007 showcase of the Hydrogen powered car was all positive. James May....where are the hydrogen cars? You said they would be everywhere now? Guess what the show is biased. No question about it. The judge is just protecting England from "disruptive" technology. Long live the EV!

  7. I fancy that the Judge has got this one badly wrong. The Tesla is a road car, so why did TG feel the need to refer to its range when driven on track? They don't so that with petrol or diesel powered cars. They should at least have driven one of the two Teslas available to them on the public roads to get a real world figure for range. To me, their failure to do signifies their real intentions for that piece. Moreover, the Judge has grossly overestimated the level of understanding of the average viewer. Yes, car enthusiasts will know that driving hard on a track dramatically increases fuel consumption, but is that necessarily true of the casual viewer? I doubt that it is, but then I don't live in an ivory tower or sit on my brains.

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