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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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eum 2years later?
By plopke on 3/30/2011 9:08:33 AM , Rating: 1
I couldn't even remmeber they made that , I mean 2 years ago. They just point out general downsides of electric cars and what problems they encountered?

Beeing a true fan of the show I kinda disspointed this dint happen durign a season ;p.

Anyway topgear be prepared for a shitload of lawsuits then ,some that i can quickly think off.

-BMW : X5 nonesense
-Ferrari GTO : Calling it just a stupid branded car
-Peugeot : For beeing called borign and stupid most of the time.
-Volkswagen : 16 seseaons of beetle hate
-Every single caravan maker
-Mexico : for calling them lazy basterds
-French people : for suggesting the world would be a better place with lot less of them
-Lorry drivers : they really do not all talk about prostetues
-Bus drivers : they really aren't assholes

RE: eum 2years later?
By mcnabney on 3/30/2011 12:49:12 PM , Rating: 3
Those are all editorial judgments, which are totally protected.

Tesla is accusing them of fabrications and making things up that did not happen. If the car did not fail on the road and require pushing to get it back to the garage YOU BETTER NOT REPORT IT AS SUCH. A falsehood with the intent to cause harm is the definition of libel, so Top Gear and the BBC could have a problem.

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