• Mar 30th 2011 at 9:57AM
  • 71
Let's put this out there: Tesla Motors is a feisty little company. When General Motor tried to trademark "range anxiety," the electric automaker said, "You can have it." Tesla has also had a long-standing beef with the BBC TV show Top Gear, largely because of that memorable 2008 review of the century's first real modern electric vehicle. If you don't remember, that was the show where the Roadster supposedly ran out of energy on the track. The two groups have sniped back and forth over time, but Tesla did what Tesla does and sued Top Gear yesterday for "libel and malicious falsehood" (See the PDF complaint).

Tesla's point is that Top Gear had an idea in mind (that electric vehicles are lame) and staged the show to prove it. On Tesla's blog site, Vice President of Communications, Ricardo Reyes, writes:

The show's script, written before the cars were tested, has host Jeremy Clarkson concluding the segment by saying, "in the real world, it doesn't seem to work." ...

Yet the show continues to air. ... 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.

Not the kind of thing you want repeated, and Reyes says that potential customers still ask Tesla staff about the show's claims, so the staged event has entered the popular mindset. Naturally, a Top Gear spokesman told the BBC news department, "The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim."

Just because something is interesting to watch on TV does not mean it's true, of course, and in this case the courts will have to figure out what really happened. Us? We're wondering why it has taken Tesla around two years to get around to filing a suit. Either way, you can watch the Top Gear clip in question after the jump. Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

[Sources: Tesla, Daily Mail, BBC]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mwah, come on - this is standard Top Gear. You should expect that if your car doesn't work that it will get ridiculed. Hawk's Stratos replica faced the same.

      It's not reasonable to say that if it was a Ferrari, it wouldn't get criticised. Ferrari have a slightly longer track record than Tesla, so I think it's fair to be more cynical. And anyway, the Tesla only suffered from issues that are common to all electric cars, which I think was Jezzer's point.

      Tesla - don't be lame. You're heavy car broke and didn't live up to your promises. Shut up, take the criticism and fix it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      tesla, you're acting like a real b***h.

      should i be expecting a process server knocking on my door too?
      • 4 Years Ago
      How come Toyota didn't sue the BBC when Clarkson said blatantly "Do yourself a favor and don't buy a Prius, buy a diesle Golf and you'll be much happier." Or something to that extent. Like others here, I get the feeling Tesla is getting very desperate due to other companies getting more coverage with much better looking vehicles. Do people really even care about the Roadster anymore? An uglified Elise that wishes it was a sportscar, but without the practicality. Who really wants a sports car with low-resistance tires in the first place. That's like having a supermodel for a wife and not doing the nasty with her.

      What they should do is just drop the Roadster and focus on the Model S, which I think looks worlds better than the Roadster.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Perhaps they settled and you never heard about it in the media????
      • 4 Years Ago
      A couple of points.
      1) It took Tesla 2 years to figure this out? Delayed reaction much?

      2)The review was not entirely negative. There were some significant points made in the beginning. And dont forget, it posted the same time as a Porsche 911 GT2

      3)Who in their right mind watches Top Gear for consumer advice??!! I watch it to see sexy cars and Jeremy James and Richard doing stupid stuff.

      4) No one in the PR department was familiar with Top Gear and their hatred for electric cars?

      5) They tested the Fuel-Cell Honda in the same show and that was an electric car too albeit running on hydrogen.

      6)Top Gear doesn't hide the fact that its an entertainment show. I have been watching Top Gear since the 90's and I can tell you, as factually incorrect this show is, I absolutely love it. And I'm sure millions around the world do. Way to go Tesla, you've just alienated an emerging customer base.

      oh and yes, great job on bringing this issue into focus again Tesla. Dont you cry babies have other things to think about like..oh I dunno, the Tesla S Coupe!!??
      • 4 Years Ago
      Forgive my ignorance of the roadster's technical specs.

      Is the roadster's quoted range based on typical driving conditions or extreme conditions like a power lap on the top gear track?

      Surely driving so vigorously would reduce the battery range dramatically, would it not?

      Although Top gear is an entertainment show - to which I am a fan - their claim does seem plausible.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So for that price I can get a Leaf and a Exige XD ...keep working tesla ;)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm definitely on Tesla's side for this. Aside from that, I really don't know what Tesla was thinking with the interior of the car, and the side mirrors:


      I think a few minor design changes will make a huge difference in the Tesla's appearance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm with you on this, especially the side-view mirrors, WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They look like they've been pulled off a 80s car in a junkyward.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope Top Gear UK (TG USA can die badly) lives on forever.

      With the un-PC (GOOD!) commentary, I can only imagine how busy their lawyers are.

      The damn lymies finally get something right!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Any publicity is a good publicity.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Top Gear lying about results and rigging results? This is somehow new to people?

      How about the mustang vs horse thing?

      They said they were using a Mustang GT and they used a V6 Mustang convertible(slowest and heaviest mustang).

      How about the GT500 fiasco where they made fun of the GT500 for having less horsepower on a normal dyno compared to the factory spec which is clearly done on a engine dyno just like every other manufacturer.

      How about the Ford GT? Where they constantly made fun of the mpg while the Ford GT gets better mpg then both the Pagani Zonda and Ferrari Spyder in the same special.

      Or how about when Jeremy Clarkson said Lotus tuned the Ford GT's suspension? SVT did that, How about when Jeremy Clarkson said the Ford GT engine is directly lifted from the lightning which is wrong again.

      Or how about when Jeremy Clarkson said a British guy wrote the American National Anthem? Yeah wrong again......

      I look at Top Gear the same way I look at John Stewart and Steven Colbert it's more of satire version of the car world and not meant to be serious.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually, a Brit DID write the American National Anthem, or at least the music. His name was John Stafford Smith and he wrote the music for "To Anacreon in Heaven" in 1760. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry" in 1814 and set the words to the music of "Anacreon." The combination of the two is "The Star Spangled Banner."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Or how about when Jeremy Clarkson said a British guy wrote the American National Anthem? Yeah wrong again......

        Actually he is partially correct. The lyrics were based off a poen written by Francis Scott Key (American) and it was recomposed to the music of a drinking song written by John Stafford Smith (British).
        • 4 Years Ago
        He says the American Anthem was written by a Brit. He doesn't say the poem was written by a Brit.

        Did you even watch the video that you linked us to? You're wrong.

        So says wikipedia and just about every other encyclopedia and resource I've come across since I first learned about it when I was 8.

        "The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry",[1] a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
        The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London.

        Just wanted to clear that up.
        • 4 Years Ago

        Maybe you should relisten to the video I'll just go ahead and directly quote the video:

        "...Because it's as American as the American National Anthem which was written by a Brit..."

        The actual American national anthem was written by a American and the song used is British.

        I'll say it again, Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner which became the American national anthem and was written to match the British song Anacreon.

        Now if Jeremy Clarkson were to have said that The Star-Spangled Banner was written using the melody of a British song he would be correct instead he said the national anthem or the poem was written by the British.

        Try harder next time if you're going to try and make me look like a idiot.

        • 4 Years Ago

        You do realize that Clarkson gave an admirable review of the Ford GT, not to mention, he actually purchased one for himself...

        • 4 Years Ago

        Jeremy Clarkson said the poem was written by the British.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Good for them. That test was BS.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That range issue seems entirely plausible. Electric cars, even $100,000 ones like the Tesla Roadster, barely eke 100-200 miles from a fully charged battery in day to day driving when the motor uses little power from the battery. On a track at full speed for many laps, full power is needed, and the battery has to discharge quicker. Thus, range drops dramatically, just like any motorized vehicle, although the larger gas tanks allow more track time. I remember Clarkson running out of energy in the Tesla after about 20 miles of vigourous driving. Everything he said was true, even if a little biased opinion wise. Does most of the electricity come from coal plants, giving a false conception of "zero emissions"? Yes. Does 600lb battery ruin the handling with low resistance tyres? Yes. But will a tesla accelerate so surprisingly quick that Jeremy claimed to be a "volthead", with 0-60 in 4 seconds? Of course. I really dont see what the issue is with the whole lawsuit deal. Jeremy has criticized the range of gasoline performance cars such as the Mitsu Evo ("It has a thimble for a fuel tank"), has found that a Ferrari 599 gets 1mpg when raced on a track, and there are many more examples. So why should Tesla sue just because he said the same thing about their battery capability? The only way Jeremy could get 100 miles from a battery is to drive miserably slowly, and if you want to do that, buy a G-whiz!
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