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
      imtoomuch1
      • 2 Years 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!
      Marcopolo
      • 4 Months 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 ?
      Cayman
      • 4 Months Ago
      Wait, Top Gear may fakes some of their scenes??? Shocking!
      GeeDavy
      • 4 Months 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.
      JakeY
      • 4 Months Ago
      "They dramatically showed that even the Stig couldn't control it, and he crashed it. " Him verbally chastising the Stig made clear that part was a joke. And the car still finished the lap in the end. "Clarkson then suggested a Range Rover, instead. Top Gear clearly hates Ferraris, and wants the FF to fail. ;)" Again misleading. That test was a comparo test between the Bentley Continental and Ferrari FF. The first conclusion was that "when you are dancing in Lapland the Bentley is the fastest". In the end he said he would take neither to a ski holiday and would take the Range Rover, instead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S2GwLUN-8Q But even that statement is misleading, because it is implying the test done on both cars are equivalent to a ski holiday drive, when it's not. And a doubt a Range Rover would be faster than either car in that lap. If at the end of the Tesla test, Clarkson said he would rather take the Elise to a track day than a Tesla, I imagine no one would have complained. But instead he said the car does not work in the "real world", which like the ski holiday claim, is misleading. And to people unfamiliar to EVs, it's convincing.
      clquake
      • 4 Months Ago
      Scuba, you have access to every electric socket outside your house?
      Nick Kordich
      • 4 Months Ago
      @JakeY: "it's not just the statement...but also the imagery" The part that really got me was when Clarkson says "And it doesn't appear you get much in the way of reliability either..." followed by the sound of electricity shorting out, a winding-down noise, and the car coasting to a stop "Oh, I don't believe this...the motor's overheating! I've got reduced power." Then they show the car stopped dead out in the middle of the tarmac. The motor did overheat. The effect: power was reduced by 10% and the top speed was capped at 110mph. I think "a reasonable motorist" would have had the impression the car was more severely impaired than that from the video and sound effects.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 4 Months Ago
      Very valid point. Yes, the 55-mile range according to track usage was based on analysis of the actual car data logs, and was determined by Tesla's people.
      Mercer
      • 4 Months 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
        • 4 Months 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.
      ghost03
      • 4 Months 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
        • 4 Months Ago
        @ghost03
        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.
      Taina
      • 4 Months Ago
      Tesla can come back when the battery technology gets better.
        Chris M
        • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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
          • 4 Months 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!
      W. Gregory
      • 4 Months Ago
      So I take my car somewhere, plug it in for "free"(lol...because retails stores LOVE giving things away for free)...and then I'm stuck there for an hour waiting for my car's required "time out" to be done. Then I drive home being mindful of my speed, what accessories I use, whether I use Climate Control or not (and it's usually at night, that means the lights are on...and if it's raining I have to use the wipers...all of which significantly reduces travel distance...nevermind if I get halfway home and decide to take a side-trip, or take the longer curvey-roaded "scenic route", all the while monitoring the LolGetToWalkinFatBoy gauge on the dash. I don't know where you live...but there aren't many Charging Ports in the middle of Indiana Corn Fields...or in most small Indiana Towns (in fact, if forced to think of where one is within 50 miles of where I live, I'd be hard-pressed to give an answer). The simple fact is, unless you live in a large metropolitan area...or frequent one...and electric car makes no sense whatsoever as an exclusive means of transportation.
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