Stating that they ‘reluctantly took legal action after its repeated attempts to contact the BBC were ignored’, electric supercar maker Tesla are suing the BBC for libel and malicious falsehood over Top Gear’s portrayal of their Tesla Roadster and ‘faked’ electric car race from an 2008 episode of the show. In a statement, the California-based company said that:
‘Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting the malicious episode and to correct the record, but they’ve repeatedly ignored [our] requests. Tesla wants people to know the truth, and correct the public’s misperceptions. The Roadster and its EV technology, as well as EVs generally, have been unfairly and viciously maligned by Top Gear.’
In particular, in their detailed writ, Tesla state that the show misrepresented the car on five completely separate points, including:
• The Roadster ran out of charge and had to be pushed into the Top Gear hanger by four men. (It in fact never dropped below 25 %).
• The Roadster’s true range is only 55 miles per charge (it is actually 211).
• One Roadster’s motor overheated and was completely immobilized as a result (falsehood).
• The other Roadster’s brakes were broken, rendering the car undriveable (falsehood).
• That neither of the two Roadsters provided to Top Gear was available for test driving due to these problems. (At least one car was always fully operational at all times).
Ricardo Reyes, Tesla’s vice president of communications, said on issuing the writ from libel law firm Carter-Ruck:
‘Today, we continue to field questions and explain the serious misconceptions created by the show. Many of us have heard: “I know this car, the one that broke down on Top Gear.” Despite the show’s buffoonery, Clarkson’s words are taken as truth, not only about the Roadster, but about electric vehicles.’
A Top Gear spokeswoman said that, ‘we can confirm that we have received notification that Tesla have issued proceedings against the BBC. The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim.’
Check the controversial broadcast here: