American car manufacturer Tesla Motors have this week lost a court appeal requesting a new verdict on their case against popular BBC motoring programme Top Gear, with the judge claiming that the show did not cause ‘libel and malicious falsehood’ on one of the company’s vehicles.
The case began in 2011 over an episode aired late in 2008 (already not a promising start for Tesla), which contained a review of the then-newest edition of the Tesla Roadster, with the company accusing the segment of featuring “lies and misinformation about the Roadster’s performance, behaviour and reliability”.
The car makers, who specialise in electric vehicles, were the butt of several expected jokes on a show aimed more for ‘petrolheads’, but their main issue was with what they claimed to be ‘staged footage’ that gave the impression of the vehicle running out of battery and suffering from numerous mechanical problems.
Host Jeremy Clarkson, who was driving for the test segment, claimed that the car had broken down through lack of battery ‘after 55 miles’ on the show’s test track, barely 25% of the ‘200 miles under normal driving conditions’ that Tesla claim the Roadster can achieve.
Tesla applied the argument that they had lost out on up to $171,000 in sales due to the poor review, and that this was mainly due to the episode having a ‘continuing impact’ due to ‘repeated’ re-runs of the episode on the BBC, on-demand (through BBC iPlayer), on DVD, and through syndication networks including Dave.
Ruling at an Appellate Court in London (England) court, Judge Martin Moore-Bick claimed that Top Gear‘s take on the car would not have ‘misled a reasonable viewer’ to believing that the Roadster was of lower quality than the company’s official statistics, and that their claim was ‘very thin on its own terms’.
After the court’s verdict, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman celebrated the ruling by stating: “I am pleased that the Appeal Court has upheld the previous ruling and the case has been struck out. I’d also like to apologise to the judges for making them have to watch so much Top Gear.”
Tesla, who are yet to comment, recently faced a similar issue with the The New York Times, who’s review of the Tesla Model S was claimed to be ‘fake’ and ‘false and misleading’, though this case has also been denied so far. While they are working in a good and innovative field for their development of alternative-energy cars, are Tesla over-reacting a little towards any claims made against their product? Besides, the Top Gear review wasn’t all bad for them, at least they didn’t come last on the obligatory ‘Power Lap':