Tesla Motors' efforts to clear allegations of reduced range on its electric cars just took another hit. A British appeals court dismissed a libel lawsuit filed by Tesla against the BBC's Top Gear show. The court rejected Tesla's appeal of a court decision last year that struck out its "libel and malicious falsehood" case against BBC. Tesla had asserted that the popular British automotive TV show had faked a scene that appeared to show a Tesla Roadster running out of power, which the Palo Alto, CA-based automaker said caused sales to drop.

Top Gear road tested two Roadsters in 2008 around a track – much more like racing conditions that typical day-to-day driving. Drivers tested the electric sports cars for acceleration, straight-line speed, cornering and handling. Top Gear claimed the car ran out of power after 55 miles – much lower than the automaker's estimated range of 200 miles. The TV show's review wouldn't have misled "a reasonable viewer" into thinking that the Roadster's range was less than the company's estimate under normal driving conditions, said Martin Moore-Bick, an appeals court judge in London, in his decision.

Tesla claimed it had lost $171,000 in lost sales as a result of the show's review of the car, and were well below the level of sales in the United States and European Union. Tesla's lawyers argued that the comments were defamatory because it had "intentionally or recklessly grossly misled potential purchasers." Judge Moore-Bick disagreed, saying the comments did not libel Tesla. Viewers would recognize that Top Gear's high-speed track testing was quite different than a normal driving style, he said.

Inaccurate media coverage can cost Tesla Motors much more than $171,000, according to CEO Elon Musk. He said that the "fake" report by New York Times writer John Broder on reduced range during his Model S road trip may have wiped out as much as $100 million in stock value for Tesla Motors. Musk asserts that the article resulted in several cancelled orders, probably costing Tesla "a few hundred" Model S purchases.


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  • 154 Comments
      blair21014
      • 1 Day Ago
      Any of you who believe Top Gear did nothing wrong, where do you work, what do you do? How about inviting a highly popular tv show to come film you at your livelihood, film for days, then edit it down to 10 or 15 minutes of "entertainment" (in other words, all your flubs and fails). You thought you were good at your job, now you look incompetent and pathetic. We get to point and laugh at you. What percentage of profit can you afford to lose? Whatever amount it ends up being, so what, you got to be tv and you entertained us. Think of all the automotive tv shows, would you really take your vehicle to any shop that has a reality show and there's constant yelling and laughing and spilling and throwing of things? If Top Gear put a disclaimer in their show that made it clear that their abusive use of the Tesla is not a fair representation of the car's actual performance, then I guess what they did is ok. btw- Has anyone ever wondered why the early Teslas used 6,831 cell phone batteries? Maybe it has to do with who owned the patents on lithium batteries at the time. Do you remember Bob Lutz's reason for the delayed release of the Volt and the price increases? If I recall correctly, his words were, "We're waiting on battery technology" (in other words, hmmm)
        Dave
        • 1 Day Ago
        @blair21014
        Top Gear is a show for petrol-heads. Their reviews are meant for people who drive aggressively. If you buy a hammer to hang pictures, it is different than if you buy a hammer to frame houses. If you buy a car to commute with, it is different than if you buy one to race with.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Day Ago
        @blair21014
        " Maybe it has to do with who owned the patents on lithium batteries at the time", I'm agog with curiosity, who owned the patents, on which sort of lithium batteries ?
        Dave
        • 1 Day Ago
        @blair21014
        You can refuel your ICE vehicle in 5 minutes as soon as you leave the track. And then drive home with no problem. But you cannot do that with the Tesla. That is why Top Gear said: "The first electric car you would actually want to buy. It's just a shame then that in the real world, it doesn't seem to work." Anyone who has ever driven their SPORTS CAR to an autocross or track day and then driven it home understands this statement. Those who have never done this do not understand the statement and take it as an attack.
      gmsexton
      • 1 Day Ago
      really 171,000 in lost sales.... sales... not profit.. so like three cars? how in the hell can you even come to the conclusion is was top gear's profile that caused three less cars to be sold? given the poor ratings everyone else was give the car for the exact reason of poor distance between charges... and not what the company claimed... unless three people walked into the dealership and said..."gee... i am not buying this car becasue i watch the episode of top gear"... you can't blame the show.. the funny thing is i am sure far more was spent on attorneys...
      Brian Rautio
      • 1 Day Ago
      171k of sales on a 109k car. So one and a half people were swayed by Top Gear. I have to ask, who was it that decided to only purchase 63% of their Tesla Roadster? And do you mind if I take the remaining 37%?
        JakeY
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Brian Rautio
        Tesla did not want to sue for damages. They just wanted a correction from Top Gear, so they originally filed the suit with no specific damage claim (only "not more than £100,000") . http://www.kww.autobloggreen.com/2011/11/03/judge-tesla-will-need-to-prove-financial-damage-to-win-suit/ And because the malicious falsehood claims have a strict time limit (1 year) in terms of damages, by the time they got around to adding a damages amount, they would only apply to reruns of the episode of which there was only a fraction: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/oct/28/top-gear-tesla-malicious-falsehood And as typical of lawsuits. I would bet the damages amount is calculated via a formula. For example how many sales were their of the Roadster vs the population vs the people who watched those reruns, compared to expected sales.
      Mercer
      • 1 Day Ago
      Tesla can argue any ways they want. Even if Top gear or NYT inaccurately portrayed EVs' range, there is no escape from the fact that EV still cannot refuel as fast as "traditional fuel" cars. Another fact is that gas or diesel is still too cheap to justify the additional cost of EV.
        Klep
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Mercer
        I believe the main problem holding back EVs currently is the lack of infrastructure. If virtually anywhere you parked the car you could be charging it, you wouldn't really need to worry about the range in almost all cases.
      EJD1984
      • 1 Day Ago
      So I take it Top Gear will not be testing (or even mentioning) the Model S anytime soon.
      clquake
      • 1 Day Ago
      Scuba, you have access to every electric socket outside your house?
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Day Ago
      @ Chris M Chris, you are of course quite right, the Japanese batteries selected by Tesl were selected as the best for Tesla's purposes. But, blair21014 , was suggesting some kind of conspiracy theory involving the patents of lithium batteries. He intimated that the owners of these patents withheld them from Tesla. I just wanted to know who he thinks the owners of these lithium battery patents are ?
      Taina
      • 1 Day Ago
      Tesla can come back when the battery technology gets better.
        Chris M
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Taina
        After such a biased and dishonest hack job of a "review", I really don't think Tesla will ever lend Top Gear a car for review again. No matter how much they may plead or wheedle. And it will serve them right.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          @ Marco I do give up, making fun of a verbose pedant. Thanks for keeping your replys breif, I usually just ignore your usuall filibusters. BTW thanks for making my point with the last hair-splitting reply.
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          @ Chris M "No matter how much they may plead or wheedle. And it will serve them right ! " So far there is no RHD Tesla product for Top Gear to test. The BBC and Top Gear gave very favourable reviews to the Volt/Ampera (car of the year), so when the Model S is finally sold in RHD form to the UK and other RHD markets, it would be better for Tesla to co-operate with the BBC Top Gear show, than let the TG team simply borrow a model S. TG did a similar review on the Nissan Leaf, which resulted in Nissan good humouredly donating a public charging post to the City of Lincoln with a plaque announcing, "The Jeremy Clarkson Charging Post ". This response provided a great source of glee for Jeremy Clarkson's co-hosts, and a very entertaining source of discomfort for Jeremy Clarkson. (entertainment gold !). That's the way to beat humorous shows like TG, with good natured humorous responses . Such an approach turns the tables ! TG was left with no where to go, but lighten up on the Leaf and laugh at themselves. A surly response would have lost audience sympathy. The impact of TG's Leaf review has had a very positive impact on Local authorities in providing charging infrastructure.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          @ Marco No "truly British brands" to a pedant : Lightning, Morgan, Ariel, Nobel, and sort of or used to be are too numerous to list.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          @ bluepongo1 Um,...once upon a time. long ago Britain made nearly 50% of all automobiles ! But that was over half a century ago. Today there are no truly 'British' cars for Top gear to recommend ! But Top Gear is fulsome in it's praise for European, or even the GM Volt/Ampera, so your explanation is out of date by a few decades !
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          @ bluepongo1 Boy, you don't give up easily do you ? Ariel Cars, has 7 employees, and last years built 21 cars ! (only 6 road registered) Nobel Motors , produces even less less vehicles (The body and chassis of the Noble is built by Hi-Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth, South Africa) and at nearly $400,000 per car, it's understandable ! Morgan is a venerable old brand, and last year lifted production to a staggering 846 hand assembled sports cars, with BMW drive-trains ! So, that's the truly 'British' car industry, less than 900 hand built sport-cars the major components of which are built elsewhere ! Yeah, I can see where the BBC would really find mass-audience interest in pushing an 'industry' manufacturing less than 900 units !
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Chris M
          The outcome would ( or woul as ABG says ) be the same: The British entertainers on the British show will tell the British viewers to buy a British car. cheerio!
      imtoomuch1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Every sane person knows Top Gear isn't serious. They don't even take themselves seriously. Musk is just continuing his spoiled brat, douchebag ways. I want Tesla to fail, which I am positive that it WILL, simply because I hate the asshat named Musk!
      SublimeKnight
      • 1 Day Ago
      Watching Top Gear for car reviews is like watching SNL's Weekend Update for news coverage. You shouldn't watch them for their accuracy.... you should watch them because you have a sense of humor and you don't hate life.
        Generic
        • 1 Day Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        I agree that the show is for entertainment only, but they do give car reviews sometimes and people might take them serious when they talk about something negative. I saw the Tesla roadster bit a long time ago, and at first, I thought the car might have shut down to protect the batteries from over heating. I don't think the primary design of the car was for track days. If they said the batteries ran out of power and they didn't then that is just plain lying. It's obvious they write and edit the show exactly how they want it to go, so why would they write and direct a fake failure of a really cool car? They are very much against anything hybrid or electric. They bash the Prius to no end. It was comical at first, but their persistence of EV and hybrid tech is starting to borderline ignorance at this point. If they want to continue to be funny, they are going to have to get with the program and stop living in the past.
      GeeDavy
      • 1 Day Ago
      Musk asserts that the article resulted in several cancelled orders, probably costing Tesla "a few hundred" Model S purchases. So, according to Musk: One = One A couple = Two Several = "a few hundred" Looks like dot com accounting is alive and well.
      Docstu
      • 1 Day Ago
      It may be a GREAT car but if one cannot buy it, it is useless!
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