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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 btc909 on 3/30/2011 11:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
Any America car on the UK Top Gear is a "Hatchet Job". Ever notice every America car is tested on a wet track?

RE: America
By BZDTemp on 3/30/2011 12:37:04 PM , Rating: 5
You must not have watched many Top Gear shows.

Yes, they don't like US cars much but that is not different than most Europeans and honestly the build quality of many US cars are not great (but it's getting better). Still this does not mean the come down on all US cars and they have for instance said very nice things about the retro muscle cars of late. Also the Hamster has declared his love for muscle cars more than once.

As for rain. Ever noticed it rains often in the UK :-)

Plus you are mistaken. Lots of US cars have been on the track in the dry:

RE: America
By mcnabney on 3/30/11, Rating: -1
RE: America
By Xaussie on 3/30/2011 1:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
I seem to remember the reviews of the M6 being quite scathing too despite the performance of that car being quite stunning. It was reviled as being ugly and having an iDrive system that Clarkson spent the whole test drive trying to figure out how to shut up.

I've owned an E39 540 which was a fantastic car and one of the best BMWs ever but its reliability doesn't even come close to my US designed and built Acura TL. 540 - failed steering box, failed DSC computer, failed power shade, wheel alignment, missing segments on LED display, 2 sets of rotors, 2 sets of brake pads, 3 sets of tires, one battery. Acura TL - not a single problem in three years, original brakes, tires, rotors.

RE: America
By tng on 3/30/2011 1:11:59 PM , Rating: 2
I would say that depends on the brand. BMWs are a typical high strung car that allot of people drive hard and it shows.

I think that you should preface your statement by saying that there are allot of brands in Europe that people here in the States have never heard of, so yeah, some of those brands may be junk. Counter this with the fact that Ford has a great reputation in Europe and I can see where you would say that.

There might be some Americans that would disagree with you though, I would be one of them if we were talking about GM.

RE: America
By silverblue on 3/30/2011 1:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
It's not all bad. I'm sure companies like Skoda, Porsche and Jaguar bring the average up. Still, owning a French car, I can understand why people would look down on European cars.

Which? conducted a survey of over 65,000 people in the UK in 2010, but they seem to agree with you in that European cars aren't in the top 10. In fact, it's almost solely a Japanese list (understandable as we don't really get American vehicles over here that much)...

If Audis are that unreliable then I look forward to the ones that sit on my back axle falling to pieces in my rear view mirror. ;)

RE: America
By BZDTemp on 3/30/2011 3:14:04 PM , Rating: 2
I of course disagree but maybe it's just that we get the rubbish US one's here and vice versa.

Three details.

1. I said nothing about European cars, some are great others not so much, I wrote about how Europeans dislike US cars.
2. I did not talk about brands but I of course should have been more precise. Let me explain, a Ford build in Europe is really not a US car but a European car just as a BMW build in the US is US car (hint, all the X-series).

RE: America
By hexxthalion on 3/31/11, Rating: 0
"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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