Tesla sues BBC for libel over rigged Top Gear test

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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