Top Gear Controversies - Tesla Roadster Review

Tesla Roadster Review

During episode seven of series twelve, Clarkson presented a segment featuring the Tesla Roadster, including a test drive. The segment showed the car's provided batteries running flat after 88.5 kilometres (55.0 mi), with Clarkson claiming that the recharge would take 16 hours. Following this, he claimed that the car then broke down. Tesla Motors spokesperson stated that the cars provided never reached less than 20% charge, none needed to be pushed off the track at any point, the recharge time was 3.5 hours, and the brake failure shown in the segment was actually a blown fuse. The BBC responded to these claims with a statement saying, "The tested Tesla was filmed being pushed into the shed in order to show what would happen if the Roadster had run out of charge. Top Gear stands by the findings in this film and is content that it offers a fair representation of the Tesla's performance on the day it was tested", without addressing the other concerns.

The comments were made following Clarkson showing a limp windmill, and complaining that it would take countless hours to refuel the car, using such a source of electricity. A BBC spokeswoman said several times in an interview that Top Gear was "an entertainment programme, and should not be taken seriously." After several weeks, Clarkson wrote a blog for The Times, acknowledging that "the film we had shot was a bit of a mess", but defending the film's claims. In the months following Clarkson's acknowledgement, the original episode, including the mis-statements, was broadcast on BBC America and BBC Australia without any edits being made. It has been reported that the BBC is still looking into the show's journalism standards. In March 2011 Tesla Motors filed a suit accusing the BBC of libel.

In court Tesla Motors lost a major part of its high court libel claim on 19 October 2011. Mr Justice Tugendhat said that no Top Gear viewer would have reasonably compared the car's performance on the show's airfield track to its likely performance on a public road. Then on 28 October 2011 the carmaker looked set to lose the remaining malicious falsehood claim, Mr Justice Tugendhat saying "I shall strike out the claim in this action unless the plea of damage is amended by agreement between the parties, or with the permission of the court."

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