Tesla sues BBC over ‘rigged’ car test

March 30, 2011

Tesla sues BBC over 'rigged' car testThe manufacturers of a high-profile electric car are suing the British Broadcasting Corporation for libel. The claim follows an episode of motoring TV show Top Gear that Tesla says lied about the performance of a Roadster vehicle in a test.

The case involves a December 2008 episode: Tesla says it has previously complained to the BBC about the edition with no response, and the lawsuit stems from the fact that the episode continues to be shown on reruns, sold to overseas stations and sold on DVD.

Part of the episode included a road test and review of the Roadster model, including a film in which the vehicle was shown to break down after running out of power. The segment concluded with host Jeremy Clarkson saying the Roadster was “The first electric car that you might actually want to buy, it’s just a shame that in the real world it doesn’t seem to work.”

There are three main points to the lawsuit. The first is that Clarkson used the words “although Tesla say it will do 200 miles we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles.” Tesla believes that not only is the show’s calculation inaccurate (apparently based on “aggressive” rather than normal driving), but that the broadcast implied Tesla had lied about the vehicle’s capacity.

The second point is that, having made this calculation, Top Gear decided to simulate the car running out of charge and film a mock-up of such an event. In fact, Tesla claims, neither of the test cars it provided ran out of charge.

The third point is that, according to Tesla, the show lied about one vehicle’s motor overheating and the other’s brakes being broken, in both cases leaving the vehicles undriveable.

As well as suing for libel, Tesla has issued a claim for malicious falsehood. This covers situations where untrue claims are not defamatory (that is, they don’t lower the public opinion of the person or organization involved) but still cause financial damage.

In response to the claims, the BBC said, “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.”

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19 Responses to “Tesla sues BBC over ‘rigged’ car test”

  1. Rick DeFlorio:

    Well look at what happened to the EV-1, GM’s electrical engineering masterpiece. Can’t have that. Where’s the oil go? I believe a group of skunkworks engineers created the EV-1 while GM was preoccupied and getting fat on SUV’s when suddenly management was “instructed” to remove it without raising to much hoopla. This is covered in “Who Killed the Electric Car?” dvd. Something similar happened here. I LOVE this show, but we can’t have Clarkson waxing poetic about this vehicles abilities, which I’m certain exist. This isn’t anything new. Look what they did to Preston Tucker and John Z.

  2. lusty91a:

    I am no Clarkson fan,Tesla you have just killed your uk sales you will be seen as whiners and nothing more brits hate in a whining Yank,who is trying to sue the BBC which is payed for by british tax payers £££.

  3. Fred54:

    Obviously the oil industry made a phone call to BBC, where is the surprise? When BP shows that it clearly owns the United States government with the oil spill in the gulf, buying the BBC isn’t much of a stretch.

  4. Rick DeFlorio:

    At 100,000 a pop, well I don’t see volume sales in the UK, however they’ve been wronged and they’re defending themselves not unlike the Tucker and it’s rumored problems which proved untrue. Got a bud in Bristol and he doesn’t like Clarkson either. Go TESLA the hell with the “Hate(ing)a whining Yank” rubbish.

  5. Paul:

    “The first electric car that you might actually want to buy, it’s just a shame that in the real world it doesn’t seem to work.”

    In the current (no pun intended) real world, it probably doesn’t work all that well, but in the real world that is just around the corner things could be very different. If Tesla can withstand the attacks that it will no doubt continue to be subjected to, then it could become the first of a whole new breed of car companies. Tucker didn’t really have history (or perhaps the future) on its side, it just had terrific design in a world of overstyled but inexpensive mediocrity.

  6. gmathol:

    Who can afford that car and for a family of four its not practicable either. I saw the Top Gear piece and their is no way Tesla can win. Besides that Tesla is highly subsidized.

  7. Rick DeFlorio:

    Old man they tested the “roadster”, couldn’t fit a family in there if you starved them. And that would be “practical”. Oh, by the way, they say, as an American, I OWN part of GM. “Subsidized” indeed.

  8. clyde:

    There may be a great many idiots out there willing to pay twice the price for a vehicle with a range of 200 Km and that requires 16 hours to recharge, but there will never be a market for electric cars.

    I’ve seen the episode. Failures notwithstanding, Top Gear correctly points out a trip from London would require three days. Imagine the time NY to LA would take? Battery powered electric cars have always been a non-starter. That was the entire point of the Top Gear piece. The best electric car may be fast and highly maneuverable, but it can only offer 3 to 4 hours of driving every 20 hours.

    Only hydrogen powered electric engines like those Honda has developped that overtake petrol.

    Tesla will lose, and deserves to.

  9. Billy Bob:

    If Top Gear was paid by the “Oil Industry” ( what a silly slogan btw ) than they would have also trashed Honda, which they didn’t, and where very pleased with the car. This whole argument is silly, Tesla is a PC on wheels, with a giant battery strapped on and yes it doesn’t run, no matter how much one loves to save the environement etc, Tesla is not the answer it is a childish idea. Tesla are blaming Top Gear for their failure as a business, shame…

  10. Rick DeFlorio:

    Painting oneself in a corner with the words “never” and “only” illuminates ignorance and/or prejudice against alternate propulsion sources for cars. Electric cars purpose embraces a commuter paradigm, perfect for the majority who work within 35 mile distance, not unlike the capabilities of the EV-1 SIXTEEN YEARS AGO. Can’t imagine where they’d be at if it hadn’t been squashed. And who squashed them? The question is addressed in the movie, with one of the culprits being the “Oil Industry” which sounds better then the “Fossil Fuel Industry” because then I think of layer upon layer of decaying Barney carcasses awaiting the pipe and I get sad and can’t sleep. The Tesla is a rich mans toy, I believe George Clooney’s got one but to think electric cars aren’t feasible is short sighted. The Honda that James May drove has little written up in the States, especially where I’m from, the midwest. I wonder who’ll provide the fuel? Probably the “Hydrogen Industry”. LOL

  11. Senor Gambas:

    The electric car is dead long live hydrogen.
    The Tesla is doomed because it does not use hydrogen and you have to charge it up. Sadly this power comes from predominantly nuclear and fossil sources the former clearly suicidal and petrol/gas prices have gone ballistic. There is an answer to all of our energy needs but the ruling elite do not want to let it happen because in essence they want to maintain a stranglehold on power by keeping it as complex as possible so they can dictate the science teaching. The more complex the more it can be monopolized by ‘science’ the less empowering it is for the plebe.
    Hail the answer from Japan which has been koshed even before the earthquake/tsaunami/meltdown but it is still a beacon for what is now possible and we must demand answers as to why we are not aloud to use this technology. The only byproduct is water.




    Many people now realise how mankind has been shackled by coporate lies and deceit. Blocking this technology is a crime against humanity.

  12. John Fields:

    Clarkson is brilliant. He says what the rest of us know and what’s as plain as the nose on the end of your face. Screw nationality and political correctness, the truth is the truth and it needs no laws or lawsuits to protect it.

    American Viewer of the best show on TV, Top Gear.

  13. robertsgt40:

    Yeah, how’s that Chey Volt or rather Dolt coming? Not so hot eh? I can see an attack on a small independent company that threatens market share of the huge corporate giants. These guys don’t like competition. Just ask Tucker what happened when he tried to compete with the BIG THREE. All out assault.

  14. robertsgt40:

    P.S. ANd right in the middle of this article is the advertisement for the Volt/Dolt

  15. Rick DeFlorio:

    Hello…Is this thing on? Rent the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car”! THE EV-1 WAS CREATED QUITE AWHILE AGO AND IT’S LEASE DRIVERS SPEAK HIGHLY OF IT. Senor “aloud” you talk like the lights are out. Yeah I’m familiar with the Japanese water powered city car it’s great news but I hope the “inventor” isn’t offed. In the states DIY’s make their own electric cars like the creator of “White Zombie” a recycled Datsun that runs sub 12 second times in the 1/4 mile with an electric motor. He also has a civilized one for his own use. The TG threesome had a hilarious skit on a hand built “electric” car which caused me to laugh enough to cry. And yeah Jeremy Clarkson rocks especially when he verbalizes “lam-BOR-gini merch-eill-LAGO”, but some here are taking his initials literally so let’s see what the suit produces. And for a group of dissers become more acquainted with subject at hand……then again everyone’s got to eat…..LOL

  16. Rick DeFlorio:

    Bobbie GT40….asking “Tucker” his opinion would entail a medium but let me know if you can get the “TAPS” guys to investigate.

  17. Senor Gambas:

    Jack Nicholson On Hydrogen back in 1978


    Who killed the hydrogen car?

  18. Electromind:

    Hydrogen cell fuel powered cars are electric too
    Just the storage of energy is chemically different.

    In theory, an electric car should be very easy to convert to hydrogen once hydrogen cells become widespread and safe

    And yeah, TopGear was too rude with the Roadster. Being the first electric car massively produced, it´s an engineering masterpiece for its short life.

  19. Weldon Gebhard:

    DYKnow that Henry Ford collaborated with Edison for a few years developing an electric car. They were aparently very comitted to the task. Ford put over $1.5 million into it and no telling Edison’s finantial contribution to battery development.
    How much would $1 million be in todays dollar?

    Top Gear is Kinda rude with everybody, in a humorsly sort of way. It is a show.

    A high school kid told me that “there would be no need for petroleum or coall because we would all be driving electric cars”. I asked him where would he get his electric to charge his car? “From the Power Plant” And, how does the power plant generate electric? “Oh!” Why are our elected officials not as smart as this kid?

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