Tesla loses libel case in England against "Top Gear"

Tesla loses libel case in England against "Top Gear"

The first of all, let me say that I am a great fan of both Tesla and Top Gear. In 2008, the original BBC Top Gear program ran a piece on the Tesla Roadster that Tesla did not like. Tesla sued for libel and have lost both at the trial level and in the Court of Appeal for England and Wales. The March 5, 2013 Court of Appeal decision can be viewed here:

While it seems that there were issues relating to overheating of the motor and brake problems, the only issue that went to the Court of Appeal related to the statements by Top Gear that on their track, the Roadster would have a range of only 55 miles rather than the 200 miles claimed by Tesla. The court found that no reasonable person would interprets the 55 mile range as being appropriate for normal driving as opposed to the drag racing and smoke-generating style popular on that program.

In this instance, I have to say that the courts have applied common sense. It would be very interesting to know what is the gas mileage of any ICE vehicle under normal Top Gear track driving conditions. A reduction in range from 55 miles from the "normal" 200 miles represents 27.5 of the "normal" range. I would guess that any ICE vehicle would see a similar reduction in gas mileage and range under the conditions of Jeremy Clarkson's driving on the Top Gear track.

Isn't that the issue? And shouldn't that have been the response of the company? I much prefer the approach that the company took to the recent New York Times article, responding with confidence and facts. Taking to the courts, it seems to me, was the action of an insecure and even immature company. Five years later, Tesla has grown in confidence, maturity and good judgment.

Vawlkus | 11 March, 2013

You'd be surprised how many Roadster owners are cautioned about their 50 mile range.

What Top Gear said may have been ment to be facetious, but 90% of its viewer was accept what is said as FACT. That assumption is what is costing Tesla money and giving them an undeserved rep.

Alan Pratt | 11 March, 2013

I didn't think they were being facetious as much as commenting on the diminished range that you get when you are racing a car around a racetrack (as opposed to normal driving). My point is that I would be surprised if an ICE car, driven the same way, would lose any less of its range than an electric vehicle.

Brian H | 11 March, 2013

Their fundamental defense was actually that they were just a goofy entertainment show that happens to use cars as props, and couldn't be held responsible for the veracity, or lack of it, of anything they said. Just a buncha comedians havin' a larf, yer 'Onour!

FLsportscarenth... | 11 March, 2013

I can see Tesla's point, the public sees the show as being an review, and misrepresenting the product is bad journalism and not good entertainment in my view.

The case has merit in my mind as it caused lost sales, at the least they should do a proper review and show what the car can and can not do.

torst1 | 7 April, 2013

I have been trying to locate that episode of TopGear to view it myself but can't say I had much luck. May I ask what season this was from and what number of show that season?

vanopzij | 7 April, 2013


It was episode 7 of season 12

joshnd03 | 7 April, 2013

Brian H wrote -
Their fundamental defense was actually that they were just a goofy entertainment show that happens to use cars as props, and couldn't be held responsible for the veracity, or lack of it, of anything they said. Just a buncha comedians havin' a larf, yer 'Onour!

I despise this argument (not yours). If a show like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a hit piece against Top Gear, and used the excuse "well we're just a comedy show" you can bet Top Gear would still sue for everything they could. And this was a hit piece. The people there are reviewing cars in a highly entertaining format. If you take away the car reviews no one watches. Just like everyone else they fear change to the status quo. It makes their jobs way harder.

The truth of this ruling is that American companies are almost overwhelmingly ruled against in the British court system.

See Apple, which (even though I strongly dislike them) had and open/shut case of patent infraction against Samsung and was still ruled against.

I'll reiterate that I cannot abide Apple's business model of suing anyone they can to discourage competition, but it is still legal. Ironically, legal due to the fact that our judicial system is based on precedence, a system we took directly from the British.

In many ways, Britain has never gotten over the fact that they had to depend on us to save their bacon in WWII. They were the world's empire, and now we have supplanted them. They are a very proud people, and they should be; but when that pride turns to Xenophobia it becomes an issue.

FLsportscarenth... | 8 April, 2013

If you pass yourself off as conducting product reviews and grossly misrepresent a product, well you are libeling a product and the offended product producer has the right to sue you. It is not immaturity on Tesla's part, they were not suing Jay Leno for cracking jokes about the car or something that was obviously comical (Actually Jay Leno gave a good review for the model S on "Leno's Garage" and apparently drives a Volt to work everyday...)

Tesla was well with in its rights and even 'comical' shows here like Mythbusters do not broadcasts lies, the truth is more interesting and entertaining...