Tesla loses major part of court libel claim against Top Gear

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 21, 2011

Tesla Motors’ high court libel claim against Top Gear, a BBC program, has hit a major obstacle but the electric sports carmaker is still pursuing a malicious falsehood suit against the media corporation over an episode that demonstrated how the Roadster model’s battery lost power in a race. Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down a ruling at the high court in London last Wednesday, saying that there is no one looking at this episode of Top Gear who would compare the car's performance on the airfield track to its likely performance on a public road.

The hearing also touches on other claims, one of which is Tesla’s allegation that the Top Gear presenters made false statements about the Roadster in a malicious manner. The first time that Tesla filed a complaint against the BBC was in 2008, shortly after the episode was first shown.

The center of the complaint was on a statement by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson that the Roadster ran out of battery after just 55 miles on its track, significantly shorter than the 200 miles that Tesla asserts that it could achieve.

Tugendhat said that Clarkson’s words are “wholly incapable of conveying any meaning at all to the effect that the claimant [Tesla] misled anyone." He explained that this is due to the distinction between the driving style and the nature of the track when compared to conditions on a public road.

Tesla claims that Top Gear used "staged" footage to give the impression that the Roadster had run out of battery. Tesla also finds fault with Top Gear’s declaration of a blown fuse to be brake failure. Top Gear also supposedly mistakenly showed that the model became immobile due to overheating.

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