Apparently Jeremy Clarkson can do whatever he wants, no matter how misleading or unfair it might be.
In 2008, Clarkson and his cohort drove a Teslas Roadster around the track at racing speeds, trying to chase the Lotus Elise the Tesla Roadster was based on. It made for an impressive video. The virtually silent all-electric Roadster went toe-to-toe with the Elise for quite a while, giving the sense that Tesla had succeeded where so many other electric car companies had failed. Tesla, it seemed, had built a fun, sporty electric sports car.
But the feeling of electric-powered euphoria didn’t last long.
The first Roadster’s batteries went flat after about 50 minutes. So Top Gear popped out a second Roadster test car. The electric motor on that one quickly overheated on the track. Then the brakes on the first, which had been charging in a garage, failed before filming could resume. These seemingly insurmountable failures resulted in an unforgettable image of the Top Gear crew being forced to push the cars off the track at the end of the video.
Tesla founder Elon Musk alleged the stunt cost Tesla $171,000 in potential sales – and filed suit. Watch the Top Gear video
A United Kingdom court of appeals just dismissed Tesla’s libel lawsuit against the BBC’s Top Gear last week saying that no “reasonable viewer” would have been tricked into thinking the Tesla Roadster’s range was less than the 200-mile estimate.
In a true show of Top Gear-style bravado, Andy Wilman, executive producer of the automotive entertainment program, said in an emailed statement: “I am pleased that the Appeal Court has upheld the previous ruling and the case has been struck out. I’d also like to apologize to the judges for making them have to watch so much Top Gear.”
Despite what the U.K.’s court system might think, there’s plenty of evidence that negative press has affected Tesla irreparably.
Just last month, New York Times reporter John M. Broder tested the Tesla Model S claiming it was incapable of achieving the advertised range. Tesla’s shares subsequently fell more than nine-percent from $39.24 to $35.58, since Feb. 8, the day the Times article was first printed, according to Bloomberg.
While we love Top Gear and the silliness the program often pulls, we agree with Tesla’s complaints. We feel the testing was unfair. Jeremy wasn’t totally off-kilter trying to compare the Telsa to a Lotus, as the two are related. But a direct comparison misses a big point: they’re still different beasts.
Electric cars are still in their infancy and can’t be driven like standard gasoline cars. Electric car buyers have to know from the outset that the technology is imperfect and will need to be treated accordingly.
Digital Trends asks: Was the Top Gear comparison – and the way the video was made – fair to Tesla? Leave a comment below.