Update: Top Gear Producers, Tesla Reps Continue Bickering Over Lawsuit

Last week Tesla Motors, maker of the of the electric Tesla Roadster sports coupe, served Top Gear with a libel suit claiming that an episode featuring the sports car contained false and exaggerated criticisms, some of which included failed brakes and an overheated and immobilized motor.  A complete explanation of the claim is posted on Tesla’s website.

Recently, Top Gear’s executive producer Andy Wilman responded to the suit in a blog post on the show’s website, providing a detailed counterpoint to each claim.

He starts with the Roadster’s range, claiming the show never refuted the company’s advertised range of 211 miles, but instead boasted a short 55-mile range based on hard track use.  He points out that Tesla engineers back in California confirmed their calculations.  And when the engine overheated from their testing, Wilman says the show stated the car had “reduced power” while Tesla maintains that they said it was “completely immobilized.”  Lastly, Tesla claims that Top Gear lied when they stated the brakes were broken.  Though a failed vacuum pump fuse required the driver to push the brake pedal harder than normal, the brakes were still operable.  Wilman argues that broken is broken, especially if something requires a visit to the shop for repair.

Wilman says the BBC normally stays quiet while preparing their defense for court, but took the unprecedented step of fighting back since Tesla is “being quite noisy with their views” of the show’s conduct.

Shortly after Wilman issued his take on the matter, Tesla issued its own response.

"Mr. Wilman seems to want Top Gear to be judged neither by what it says, nor by what it does," corporate representatives wrote on Tesla's official website. "Top Gear needs to provide its viewers, and Tesla, straightforward answers to these questions."

Tesla insists it "wants people to know the truth, and correct the public's misperceptions" of its electric two-seater. Since the episode first aired on December 14, 2008, it has been rebroadcasted on both the BBC, syndication, and several dozen websites. Tesla wants the episode to disappear for good, and is banking on the courts to agree.

At this point, it seems the only point both sides can agree on is this may prove to be a lengthy legal argument...

Source: Top Gear, Tesla

Mike
This law suit feels a bit frivolous. I just watched the review again and there are a few things that stand out that make me scratch my head at Tesla. 1) They (Top Gear) say it's a good car, it's fast, and is something you might actually want to buy. But here's what i think Tesla is getting upset about and the things i see: 1) The range on the Top Gear track - 55mi is not much but considering the hard driving they do on their track, it kinda makes sense that the range is reduced by that much. Just like any car, the harder, faster you drive, the less range it will have (i.e. 4mpg for the Ford GT). Plus didn't somewhere in the above article say that the Tesla boffins confirmed the calculations? 2) By saying it's not ready for the real world, or whatever the quote is, means that having a 16hr (I think that's the number he said) recharge time just isn't practical, especially if you're going for any sort of distance journey. (Hence why he used the example of going to Ireland) . Day to day commuting, sure it would make sense. But most people's day to day commute is less than 200 miles. 3) They claim and apparently was affirmed that the script was written BEFORE the film was shot. Okay, but that's how a lot of TV programs work. Doesn't mean that they DIDN'T test before writing. So all that about not testing it before writing seems a little... Odd... IF it's true that Top Gear did that, then okay, Tesla MAY have a point, but there's no proof saying otherwise. 4) Ultimately they did say it was a good car, that it was an "astonishing piece of engineering", they were surprised at the performance. They even noted that though the cornering wasn't great, it was due to the specific tires they had on the car. Finally, while Tesla may claim that it's been hurting their sales, the price tag is quite high for an electric car, and most people can't afford the car, aren't ready for fully electric cars, or can afford to get the proper plugs installed etc... But there's no arguing that Tesla has come a long way and achieved something quite remarkable in their cars. Heck the new roadster looks pretty slick! Ultimately what needs to be realized is that Top Gear is usually Brutally Honest about their opinions and that's exactly what it is. An opinion based on the tests THEY performed. It will be interesting to see how things turn out in this case.
Tony LOve
This company is doomed anyhow. Its just not cost effective anymore to build cars here. The Chinese will steel the technology and pay our polititions off to let them sell their subsidized product here. Sad but true.
Bob The Janitor
Seems rather than sit and cry about who said what and what is the truth about their car, rather than the typical LET'S GO TO COURT whiner mode, why don't they take what they have and make it better so as to SILENCE the critics and humble all who gave it a bad review? Fix anything wrong with power brakes. I agree, BROKEN IS BROKEN! FIX IT!!! Boost the battery life! Give 'em a better vehicle they can find nothing wrong with? Drop down within themselves and pull out something so strong, they corner the market? NO, they would rather play the blame game. *shaking head* That's my opinion.

New Car Research

Find vehicle reviews, photos & pricing

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price

subscribe

new cars

Read Related Articles

TO TOP