Two of car geeks’ favorite things — the Tesla Motors and the BBC’s wildly popular auto-enthusiast show “Top Gear” — are now in a legal battle over allegedly “false” claims made by the show in a 2008 episode.
Tesla is suing the BBC for libel and malicious falsehood, saying that a “Top Gear” episode created a false portrayal of the performance of its all-electric Roadster sports car.
“Top Gear” misrepresented the Roadster in a variety of inaccurate and damaging ways, say Tesla in its suit. The primary problem is that the episode reported that, despite Tesla’s European Union-certified claims of a 200+ mile range, the Roadster can only travel 55 miles on a single charge, based on the “Top Gear” crew’s pedal-stomping tests.
The episode also shows four men pushing the Roadster into a hanger, evidently because the car’s batteries were drained. Telsa says the on-board records of the two Tesla Roadster’s “Top Gear” had available clearly show that neither car’s charge dropped below 25 percent.
Lastly, Tesla says that claims made by the show that the car’s brakes had completely failed were false. Instead, the fuse for the braking system’s electrical pump blew, which disabled the car’s power brakes. But the brakes still worked, even without the functioning pump — a feature that is required for the car to pass all necessary safety tests.
So, why did Tesla wait two years to file the lawsuit? According to Tesla’s website, the company “reluctantly took legal action after its repeated attempts to contact the BBC, over the course of months, were ignored.” Because the “lies” made by “Top Gear” are “repeatedly and consistently re-broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide on BBC television,” plus played on websites, syndicated to other TV channels and available on “Top Gear” DVDs, Tesla simply “wants people to know the truth, and correct the public’s misperceptions.”
Watch the offending “Top Gear” clip: