Electric sports-car maker Tesla is suing the producers of Top Gear for defamation:
The episode in question, first broadcast in 2008, showed Jeremy Clarkson driving a Roadster that appeared to power down unexpectedly. The car was pushed from the track into a garage, where Clarkson claimed the Roadster was only capable of going for 55 miles around the Top Gear test circuit — some 145 miles less than Tesla’s official figure.
Clarkson then went on to claim a second Roadster on loan had suffered a brake failure, which meant the programme was unable to continue their review.
Following the show, Tesla said the alleged breakdowns were staged. The company revealed that at no point did either of the two Roadsters it had loaned to the show dip below 20 per cent charge and that there were no brake failures on either car.
Unsurprisingly, the BBC challenged Tesla’s interpretation of events and claimed the footage of the Roadster running out of juice was merely illustrative of what would happen if the batteries were exhausted.
“At no time did we claim that the cars ran out of charge,” said a spokesperson. “When the car began to lose power we included a voiceover which stated: ‘And if it does run out it’s not a quick job to charge it up again.’ Top Gear stands by the findings in this film and is content that it offers a fair representation of the Tesla’s performance on the day it was tested.”
Tesla has started a website to present its side of the story, while a Top Gear producer responds here. I think the Beeb has the better of the argument, but British libel law is notoriously plaintiff-friendly, so who knows?
The offending segment: