A British court has rejected claims by Tesla that a television show misrepresented the performance of its electric cars. The verdict comes amid a bitter row between Tesla and the New York Times over a scathing review.
Tesla brought a lawsuit against the British Broadcasting Corporation in March 2011 over a 2008 edition of Top Gear. The suit took issue with a scene in which, following a track test, a Tesla Roadster vehicle was shown being pushed away from the track having run out of charge.
In fact, the scene was staged, though the producers said it was designed to represent what would eventually have happened based on extrapolations from its actual testing. Tesla also objected to the show allegedly implying that it had lied about the Roadster’s capacity. Host Jeremy Clarkson said in a voiceover that “Although Tesla say it will do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles and if it does run out, it is not a quick job to charge it up again.”
Tesla lost its initial case but brought an appeal. That’s now been thrown out by a panel of three judges including Lord Justice Moore-Bick, who noted that he had watched the episode several times before making a ruling. The judges upheld the original verdict that said it would be clear to the viewers that the 55 mile range referred to the aggressive driving Top Gear used on a racing track test, rather than its range in ordinary road driving.
The appeal court also rejected the suggestion that Tesla deserved additional damages because sales in the UK were much lower than expected thanks to the adverse publicity and the affair had damaged investor confidence. The judges upheld the original verdict that said there was no clear evidence linking the broadcast to any specific damage to the company.
Meanwhile the war of words between Tesla and the New York Times continues. Following a road test review claiming the Model S car’s range was far below what was advertised and the writer was left stranded when it ran out of juice, Tesla published monitoring data from the vehicle. It says this proves writer John Broder repeatedly lied, though Broder disputes this interpretation.