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Tesla Roadster  (Source: Tesla Motors)

Left to Right: Hammond, Clarkson, and May  (Source: BBC)
Tesla isn't laughing when it comes to Jeremy Clarkson's antics

Top Gear is pretty much the biggest automotive show on the planet. It's car porn for car nuts and any enthusiast worth his/her salt watches every episode of the show by any means necessary. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, are known to take a few liberties when reviewing cars on the BBC program -- especially Clarkson -- but the antics of the show with regards to the Tesla Roadster are landing them in some legal hot water [PDF].

Jeremy Clarkson tested the Roadster along the show's famous "track" and made a number of false or misleading claims about the vehicle's capabilities. You can view the [admittedly low quality] Top Gear segment here for yourself. 

Tesla lays out the following portions of the review that were misrepresented by Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear: 

  • The Roadster ran out of charge and had to be pushed into the Top Gear hangar by 4 men.
  • The Roadster’s true range is only 55 miles per charge (not 211).
  • One Roadster’s motor overheated and was completely immobilized as a result.
  • The other Roadster’s brakes were broken, rendering the car undriveable.
  • That neither of the two Roadsters provided to Top Gear was available for test driving due to these problems.

Ricardo Reyes, Vice President of Communications for Tesla, further hammers Clarkson and his antics in a blog post:

In the episode, two Roadsters are depicted as suffering several critical "breakdowns" during track driving. The show’s script, written before the cars were tested, has host Jeremy Clarkson concluding the segment by saying, "in the real world, it doesn’t seem to work."

Today, we continue to field questions and explain the serious misconceptions created by the show. Many of us have heard: I know this car, the one that broke down on Top Gear. Despite the show's buffoonery, Clarkson’s words are taken as truth, not only about the Roadster, but about EVs. 

Tesla goes on to say that these lies being perpetrated by Top Gear are damaging to its image, considering that the show is rebroadcast on BBC television and available over the internet. In fact, Top Gear has roughly 350 million viewers worldwide, so it's understandable why Tesla is a bit protective of its "baby".

Most enthusiasts who watch Top Gear know not to take everything that the show portrays as gospel, but Tesla isn't taking any chances with this lawsuit -- even if it comes two years after the original episode first aired...

Updated 3/30/2011 @ 11:45am EST

The BBC has responded to Tesla Motors' lawsuit, stating that it will "vigorously defend" Top Gear's claims.

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By vazili on 3/30/2011 9:00:01 AM , Rating: -1
What's the point of putting tesla on the show? No ordinary driver will drive their car like the show does. And if you do, you've got way too much time on your hands

RE: really?
By stu4500 on 3/30/2011 9:01:26 AM , Rating: 5
100 grand why wouldn't you drive it like that

RE: really?
By mcnabney on 3/30/2011 12:41:25 PM , Rating: 1
Because what they do is illegal on public roads and most private tracks won't allow it either.

RE: really?
By Camikazi on 3/30/2011 9:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
The Tesla is not an ordinary car, at 110k, it's an exotic sports car, just like most every car they test on the show. You send your sports car to be tested on the show then you should know what they will do to it and you should know they will not be kind if it breaks.

RE: really?
By Mitch101 on 3/30/2011 11:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
Makes me wish Saturn was around before GM ruined them. Anyone recall the commercials about them sending engineers out to examine various car problems? What I liked is they didnt claim they were perfect but were trying and were interested in making a better car more than blaming everyone else for why there were problems and taking responsibility for what would be a design or manufacturing issue.

RE: really?
By Spuke on 3/30/2011 9:56:48 AM , Rating: 2
No ordinary driver will drive their car like the show does.
Actual owners of this car DO drive it like on the show. There's a guy down in Malibu that had to get his car towed home because he was romping on it in the hills around there. It's a sports car not a Prius.

RE: really?
By Flunk on 3/30/2011 11:31:48 AM , Rating: 2
yes, the Prius is a lot more reliable.

RE: really?
By ekv on 3/30/2011 3:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
just be careful where you put the boot

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