Friday April 8th, 2011 15:33 Tesla Motors vs Top Gear

Tesla Roadster

Last week, it emerged that Tesla Motors was taking legal action against the BBC’s Top Gear TV programme over what they felt was an intentionally misleading depiction of the Tesla Roadster in an episode of the show first broadcast in December 2008.

In the episode, presenter Jeremy Clarkson experiences a number of problems while test-driving two Tesla Roadsters. In addition to running out of charge, one model’s motor supposedly overheats and becomes immobilised, while another model develops a problem with its brakes. One scene shows a Roadster being pushed back into the Top Gear hangar, while at another point in the segment, Clarkson says, “although Tesla say it will do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles.” The segment concludes with Clarkson commenting that “in the real world, it doesn’t seem to work.”

Tesla Motors have refuted the show’s claims, and accused Top Gear of intentionally staging these breakdowns. Unhappy that the episode in question has frequently been rebroadcast around the world on television, DVD and the internet, Tesla say they have taken legal action in an attempt to stop any future repeats of the road test. In a statement, the electric vehicle manufacturer said: “Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they’ve repeatedly ignored Tesla’s requests.”

A Top Gear spokeswoman initially responded to Tesla’s allegations by saying that “the BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim.” However, any thoughts that this argument would be resolved quietly were dismissed when Top Gear’s Executive Producer, Andy Wilman, took to the show’s Transmission blog on Saturday to address what he saw as Tesla’s “quite noisy” attempts to promote their side of the legal battle in public through the media.

Although Wilman did admit in his post that Top Gear had prepared a rough draft of a script in advance of the road test, he said that this was normal procedure, and any comments about the car’s performance were “added on the day.”

On Monday, Tesla expressed its belief that Wilman’s comments about the script will only help to prove the case of libel and malicious falsehood against Top Gear. In a statement posted on its website, Tesla said: “It seems actual test result don’t matter when the verdict has already been given – even if it means staging tests to meet these predetermined conclusions.”

As of yet, there has been no further response from Top Gear, but it does not look like this very public feud will be resolved any time soon.

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