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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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RE: What is the Truth?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/30/2011 12:16:17 PM , Rating: 0
Everyone knows Clarkson hates anything electric. He matched a Prius against a BMW 3 series and raced them around the track and showed that the Prius only got 17 miles per gallon, and acted like he was serious about it. Of course, he never took the 3 series and the Prius on a road trip and showed the Prius getting 50 mpg and the BMW getting 25 or so. That is not good television.

RE: What is the Truth?
By UNHchabo on 3/30/2011 1:47:27 PM , Rating: 5
You missed the point of the exercise entirely. His point was: "it's not what you drive, it's how you drive it."

If you bury the accelerator into the carpet on a Prius, you *will* get 17 miles per gallon. Meanwhile, the M3 was able to get 19 miles per gallon while still keeping up with the Prius.

Of course a Prius will get better mileage than an M3 if you drive both conservatively. But the point is that if you drive aggressively now, you can save tons more fuel by changing your driving style, rather than driving the same way in a "more efficient" car.

RE: What is the Truth?
By tng on 3/30/2011 2:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I have a co-worker that has a Prius. He has a very heavy foot with the thing and hence only gets about 35mpg most of the time.

I tease him about it because I get 40mpg in a regular Civic.

Fortunately he did not buy the car for the mileage, he got it because he could drive it in the carpool lane here in California. I think that that privilege will run out this summer, at that point he is just a guy driving a really ugly car....

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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