Tesla Fails Again In Suing Top Gear For Mocking Tesla's Range

from the let-it-go dept

We've never quite understood the strategy of electric automaker Tesla to sue the BBC and Top Gear because of an episode that involved a Tesla roadster, which the Top Gear crew mocked, at one point claiming it only got 55 miles before the batteries ran out of juice. This was a marginally amusing segment on a show that's known for tossing around a (somewhat joking) insult or six about lots of cars. In other words, no big deal. Except to Tesla -- and specifically its founder, Elon Musk, who lashed out angrily about the show and then sued for "libel" over the episode. Apparently that strategy failed even faster than a Tesla battery* and did so twice. After having the first lawsuit tossed out, an amended lawsuit met the same fate with the judge saying that the claims were "not capable of being defamatory at all, or, if it is, it is not capable of being a sufficiently serious defamatory meaning to constitute a real and substantial tort." In other words, go away.

The thing is, I can't see how this made any sense at all. Most people would have just moved on, but by suing it seems to only call more attention to the original claims and generate much more interest in that episode. If Tesla had just let it go and focused on, you know, building great cars, no one would have cared much about a jokey comment from a TV show.

* This, too, is a joke, so don't sue me for making a joke about your batteries. I'm actually a big fan of Tesla and am eagerly looking forward to the company's future models which look pretty damn cool.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    RadialSkid (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:24pm

    Whatever Tesla's claims are about the cars range, or indeed, whatever other Tesla test vehicles have achieved, Top Gear claimed that their specific car only went 55 miles before needing a charge, something that I'm sure everyone who works on the show would agree with.

    I mean, here at least, FACTS can't be considered libel, but then again, I'm also aware the UK is a bit looser with their definition of the term.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:32pm

      Re:

      With Top Gear driving, the Tesla only getting 55 miles, is hardly surprising. Those guys are well known to have lead feet. Should the car be driven moderately, as prudent owners would, then it will get its advertised range. It would only be news if a moderate driver could not get the advertised range.

       

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        Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:11am

        Re: Re:

        Should the car be driven moderately, as prudent owners would,

        Prudent owners wouldn't buy a Tesla - it's a sportscar.

        Tesla owners will delight in the amazing off-the-line acceleration - they won't drive it moderately.

         

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          Machin Shin (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That is exactly the problem. You apparently never have the problem I have with sportscar owners. I always seem to get behind them at the lights. They are sitting there in a sports car with half a million the light turns green and we are off! I look over then and see granny in a Crown Victoria blow past as the sports car goes 0-60 in ten minutes.

          For some reason seems a popular thing to spend fortune on a super fast car so you can drive the damn thing at 25mph in a 55mph zone. So yeah, I bet it would get great range the way most of these morons baby their sportscars and never actually drive them.

           

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            ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For some reason seems a popular thing to spend fortune on a super fast car so you can drive the damn thing at 25mph in a 55mph zone. So yeah, I bet it would get great range the way most of these morons baby their sportscars and never actually drive them.

            You have to see it through their eyes. They just spent a ton of money on proving their man-hood/women-hood and they can't afford the speeding ticket. Cops like sports cars too. They drive me crazy, but then I remember that I don't need to buy a vehicle to prove anything, and I go on my way.

            What drives me more crazy is the 70 year old driving the crown vic who drives 25mph while running every stop-sign and stop-light in sight. "This car has only one speed...25mph, and no breaks." Argh!

             

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      Bergman (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 4:52am

      Re:

      These guys are not the sharpest tools in the shed, and they tend to be very hard on their toys. I wouldn't be surprised if they forgot to charge the battery (or got bored waiting for it to charge all the way) and drove off with a partial charge, then kept the accelerator floored until it ran down.

      On the other hand, a top rating from these guys means that whatever it was, it's rugged as hell.

       

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        Machin Shin (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:13am

        Re: Re:

        They go out and drive sports cars like sports cars. Yes it is rough on them but what is the point of having a freeking sports car if all you are going to do is baby the thing. They went out and drove it hard on their track and found that the battery died very quick if you actually drive it hard. They then picked on how long it takes to charge.

        They basically treated it just like they would any other sports car they test. They pushed it hard as they could and told the results. In this case they came to conclusion that while a cool car it just is not ready to hang with gas car just yet. That is not really a bad thing.

        Elon Musk just needs to grow up and accept some critisem. I mean Top gear will pick on pretty much any car they test. This is because no car is perfect. What Tesla should take from this is that they still have some work to do. Suck it up and get to work. It is not like top gear saying a few bad things will hurt you. Top gear says bad things about Ferrari and Lamborghini so yeah, what did they expect them to say about a Tesla?

         

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      Tyler Simpson, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 3:31pm

      Re:

      The 55 miles part was written into the script. The car still had 100 miles of range left on it. That's libel.

       

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    Mr. Smarta**, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:34pm

    What to call it?

    Does this mean we get to refer to this brazen stupidity as "The Tesla Effect" now?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:17pm

    Considering that range is probably the one sore point for any pure electric car, I can understand Tesla being upset if their are being made fun of on this issue.

    I can also understand that the courts aren't in a rush to help them out.

     

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      Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 2:34am

      Re:

      I'm a huge fan of Tesla, and I agree that the issue here is about the range of the car because it is a pure electric car. I'm not sure going legal against Top Gear was the smartest plan, but that was their choice. I completely agree that courts will not be in a hurry to help out anyone in the electric car business.

      Basically electric cars are to the oil / automotive industry, the same as the internet is to the content / communications industry.

       

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        Sneeje (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:07am

        Re: Re:

        Wait, are you suggesting that the case would have merit, except for the fact that it was about electric cars?

        You do understand, that to prove defamation, you have to prove harm and distinguish that harm from other market effects (I see no evidence of that except hurt feelings), prove that the specific facts were blatantly false, and that the party that spoke them knew they were false and would cause harm?

        None of those things appear to be valid here. So why again is it valid (or even relevant) to claim bias here?

         

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          Fact checker, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The Tesla Roadster has computer logs that record charging history etc. Tesla had staff on sight at the Top Gear taping. The Roadster Top Gear tested did Not run out of charge in 55 miles. This Fact has been admitted by Top Gear. It seems that most of the commentors here are misinformed about this and I can't blame them because the Top Gear episode was misleading at best. Tesla's reputation was harmed by this as evidenced by almost every potential European investor (Tesla was raising private equity at the time) asking Tesla about the 55 mile range issue. How much this cost Tesla is hard to say but I think any reasonable person would conclude it cost them something. If you take a look at the comments here, many people believe the Roadster ran out of charge after 55 miles and this has negatively effected their opinion of the car and the company. The Roadster did not run out of charge and did not need to be pushed off the track. Top Gear just did that "to show what would happen if it ran out of charge". Very misleading and Top Gear does effect people's perceptions whether whatever you consider the show to be and in my view should be held accountable. Judges get things wrong all the time and in this case he got it wrong. For the record I own a Roadster and it is the most amazing car I have ever driven. Truly mind-blowing and pollution free as I power it from solar panels. Tesla is promoting a future where pollution free self reliant transportation is possible. Thanks for reading my thoughts:)

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 9:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Truly mind-blowing and pollution free as I power it from solar panels."

            yeah sure...
            how many days does it take to charge from solar panels?

             

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              Fact checker, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 2:53pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I charge from a 50 amp 220 dryer outlet which equates to putting a little less than a mile a minute back into the battery. I typically drive about 20 miles a day so it takes about 20 minutes to refill the battery on a normal day. The solar panels produce far more energy than the car uses each day.

               

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              raggeredtrouseredmisanthropist (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 5:57am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You can't charge "from" a solar panel. Solar energy is a means of producing electricity, which has to come through a plug. Seriously, is everyone on here a retard?

               

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            a european top gear fan, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I've been a Top Gear fan (the original British show, not the US version) for years, and I must say anyone who seriously believes that the Top Gear car reviews are NOT FAKED should seriously rethink their perception of TV... The Top Gear Presenters (particularly Clarkson and Hammond) are well known to A) mock about EVERY car they test, no matter how good it is, and B) to repeatedly make fun of how their show is called a "factual" TV show. So I think no investor in their right mind should really be alarmed by a Top Gear review where the presenters are making fun of one or another issue in a completely exaggerating manner. BTW: There have also been occasions where carmakers tried to "save themselves" from bad reviews by not giving TG their cars... Happened in the second US-special, where Hammond bought himself the car in question with his own money, and in the Albania Special, where Clarkson "tested" an old communist car and pretended it was a Bentley Mulsanne... well, you see, the carmakers' plan did not quite work out - and this also shows how "serious" and "factual" the show is...

             

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        ChrisB (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:16am

        Re: Re:

        The oil industry might car a little bit if there are electric cars, but the coal and natural gas industry sure don't, as the major uses of those are electricity generation. Why would the automotive industry care about electric cars? If people want them, they'll get built.

        You see too many conspiracies.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:24pm

    Was it here or elsewhere that I read that Tesla's have a major design flaw. If their battery pack ever goes completely discharged, it CANNOT be recharged and must be replaced. And the cost is something like $40,000.

     

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      James T, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:38pm

      Re:

      Yes ALL modern batteries fail to work properly when 100% discharged. Your cell phone for example can explode if it's over charged, and will completely fail if it's discharged. Have you ever noticed rechargeable batteries always seem to come with some amount of charge? These are facts. Not all batteries have the same types of issues.

      Why then do people not experience these events regularly? Advanced logic circuits to measure and monitor the batteries. It keeps the battery from exploding (literally), and prevents it from internal damage on discharge.

      So then the obvious question does the Tesla battery pack and charging system have advanced logic, for sure. In fact there are many articles about how advanced it is.


      As for this road test one their reports they said the car had "reduced power". That's not how it would operate in a situation where there wasn't enough battery power. Obviously Tesla would be upset if the test data was false. Tesla has had it's engineers poor over the car and the logged data and could find no evidence that such an issue ever occurred. A weak battery would be prevented from discharging too low, and everything else should be normal operation of the car full battery or weak battery.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 1:12am

      Re:

      IIRC this is not actually true. While it is true that fully discharging the Tesla's battery can cause it to become unchargeable, it's actually a simple matter of resetting the battery manager.

      That's what I've heard about the way that story went, anyway.

       

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      Tyler Simpson, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 3:36pm

      Re:

      It has to be left at 0% charge for weeks (Nissan says for the Leaf you shouldn't leave it at 0% for more than 14 days to be safe, Tesla says around a month) for it to begin discharging. Tesla even sends representatives over to the car prior to the Lithium Ion cells dying to charge it up, its got emergency systems in place. The only case in which a car could be bricked is if you were involved in a murder, ended up in a coma, and the car ended up as police evidence so Tesla wouldn't be able to get to it. Even in that case, the 8 year warranty covers the cost of bricking. The battery pack is $8-$12k depending on the amount of energy it stores.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2013 @ 8:13pm

      Re:

      You are correct. BUT TESLA will sell you and ADDITIONAL insurance policy to cover a new battery...for extra money.

       

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:43pm

    The Funny Thing Is ...

    ... seeing people cite a Top Gear rating as a recommendation for choosing a car. You can’t have it both ways, people! Either it’s a review show you can trust, or it’s just “entertainment” and you can’t.

     

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      Torg (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:57pm

      Re: The Funny Thing Is ...

      Would being a review show mean they're not allowed to say bad things about the things they're reviewing, or was this just a general comment about Top Gear that's been looking for a home?

       

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      PaulT (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 1:05am

      Re: The Funny Thing Is ...

      Do they? Unless I missed something, it's not been a review show for a long, long time. Unless by Top Gear rating you mean the magazine, which is a separate thing from a TV show where the hosts are know for their irreverent humour...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 8:57pm

    any publicity is good publicity, plus some "don't besmirch our shite" cred.

     

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    Jason, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:01pm

    Tesla should have taken the criticism in stride and worked past it through engineering and testing solutions instead of resorting to taking it to court. Prove them wrong instead, use it for a chance to create positive publicity. Now they have to contend with what I could see as the stopgap replacement for their all-electric in the Fisker Karma which TopGear gave a particularly glowing review on.

     

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    Ramon M, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 9:57pm

    I dream of owning one

    Keep it as my Sunday car, drive it to Walmart and back because that just about what the battery will allow. Seriously I like their cars but something need to be done about the battery,

     

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      raggeredtrouseredmisanthropist (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 5:53am

      Re: I dream of owning one

      Er... what do your comments mean? If you actually read what people are saying, then you will see that the 55 miles stated is under extreme conditions. So, if the actual range is closer to 200 miles (and it is, I know someone with a Roadster) then I would have to ask where your Walmart is... oh and it's "something NEEDS to be done, not "need".

      Try reading things properly, just a thought.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 10:56pm

    Tesla batteries only last 55 miles? Good to know, I'll be sure not to buy one.

     

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      Machin Shin (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      It will last 55 miles when driving like mad on a race track. Kind of like how most sports cars have their range cut in half or worse when driving hard and fast. The Tesla just drains it's battery faster as apposed to drinking more gas.

       

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    Jake, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 11:09pm

    In Tesla's defence, I seem to recall the Top Gear team getting a dressing down from Ofcom for this review being somewhat misleading. They apologised and issued a correction, though, and that should have been an end to it.

     

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    Pete Austin, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 1:33am

    Re: IIRC this is not actually true

    Here's Tesla's response to claims that leaving their cars for a while, while not plugged in to a powerful enough electricity supply, "bricks" the battery which needs replacing - and this is not covered by Tesla's guarantee.

    They could have silenced their critics, once and for all, by saying that this has never happened. And if it did happen, that Tesla would pay for the repair. But as you can see they didn't - chosing instead to rubbish the report and say that bricking wouldn't happen in specific scenarios.
    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/plug-it

     

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    Tritter, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 1:34am

    Well

    I like techdirt articles but I can't help but notice how the authors here does not have the balls to just make a joke or remark about people without telling something in the lines of "don't get me wrong. Its just a joke " etc

    Seriously, its just annoying. Its like a college professor telling their students an unintentionally hilarious joke and telling them something in the end that negates that joke.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:04am

      Re: Well

      Well considering that Tesla(and way too many other people these days) is trying to sue over a joke, a little disclaimer like that doesn't hurt, and could, legally, help out.

       

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      JMT (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:37am

      Re: Well

      You missed the point. The disclaimer was a dig at Tesla's litigious nature.

       

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      Seriously, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:09am

      Re: Well

      In that you compare this article to something I find completely impossible to believe that you would know ~anything about, college and professors.. I JOKING! Get it?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 2:36am

    I needed a replacement car as my GM rusted out and the tranny started to leak and slip, I bought a Ford it is my first and it is one of my favorite cars. No Government bailout, no screwing the investors, and the workers are still content.
    I'm a Ford guy from now on.

     

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      PRMan, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:09am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 8th, 2012 @ 2:36am

      I'm a Ford guy from now on.

      Just wait til the warranty runs out. You'll change your mind about that as everything fails in 3 years and 1 month...

       

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      I just thinking, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:13am

      Re:

      you are Ford guy til you run that card into ground.. >:-D

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:13am

    "[B]y suing it seems to only call more attention to the original claims and generate much more interest in that episode" in the context of Tesla saying "Our batteries are JUST FINE."

    Explain to me again how drawing more attention to their cars and their good batteries is bad for Tesla.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:00am

      Re:

      They could have more easily accomplished that through more publicity where they would prove to the world that their batteries and cars are awesome. Instead, they FAILED to prove in court that their lawsuit had merit.

       

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        Wishful thinking, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:04am

        Re: Re:

        The failure to see that their claim was harmful to the perception of their brilliant roadster has misled even more people like you.

         

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    ASTROBOI, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Musk is a character.

    Musk also gave us Paypal, perhaps the most hated payment processor in the world. It sounded like a good idea when he started the company and I always thought it was those who came after Musk that wrecked it. But it seems like everything this guy touches involves being nasty and arrogant. PP is well known for such policies as "there is no appeal" and seizing their customers' money without warning. Now you can't make fun of his wonderful 100K car either. I'm beginning to see Musk as a rather toxic guy. Anybody want to ride on his new rocketship?

     

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    Lennart Regebro, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 5:33am

    What!?

    That was the best advertising Tesla ever got! And they *sued* them? How stupid is that? The Tesla cars came out of that show looking awesome. No, they can't compete with a Ferrari, but everyone already knows that. I'm pretty sure most people who saw that show came out wanting one.

    What idiots.

     

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      Machin Shin (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:24am

      Re: What!?

      Yeah, that is what I don't understand. They drove it like maniacs and killed the battery in 55 miles. So what? You drive a Ferrari like that and you are getting like 5 mpg and don't get all that much farther than 55 miles.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 6:01am

    So if you buy 4 Tesla's you can go 200 miles before needing a recharge? That is like double the Volt...is it double the cost?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:11am

    Wrong, at first hearing this I thought, "oh, that sucks. 55 miles, WTF is that about!" By suing that bring the issue to light and people discover that it was meant in a mocking manner and the 55 miles was an exageration. I think the lawsuit drawing attention to it actually makes people look into the matter more and discover the truth, rather than accept the 55 mile "joke" as fact. I agree that the "Streisand Effect" is real, but in this case I think the lawsuit actually serves Tesla. The "Streisand Effect" occurs when some negative news is actually true, in this case the claim is false and by drawing attention to it people learn the facts. Not all lawsuits are bad, get over your hatred for lawyers and the entertainment industry - it is turning this site from an information hub into a stump for your personal vendettas.

     

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    Wishful thinking, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Tesla

    I 2want one 2test drive around in deep candyapple red metallic. Please Elon, contact me through this blog and send me one. >:-)

     

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    Sinan Unur (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    You know, the video is available

    at http://www.topgear.com/uk/videos/electric-shocker

    with the following:

    LEGAL NOTICE: This programme is now the subject of legal proceedings for defamation and malicious falsehood brought by Tesla Motors Ltd and Tesla Motors Inc against the BBC.


    Jeremy said "we've worked out that on our track it would run out after 55 miles."

    It is amazing that withing the span of about 120 years, we've come from being confined to within a few miles of where you were born or completely abandoning your family and friends to people intent on preventing you from staying in close touch with family if you choose to immigrate. Why do these people hate my grandmother?

     

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    Bor, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    I don't see how it's not defamatory

    They lied about the range of the thing, which is extremely damaging to the company given that range is a sore spot for electric cars.

    The number of people on this thread taking the 55 mile as a fact reaffirms the severity of it. (actual range is well over 200 miles)

    It's a hell of a lot more serious and harmful than some nonsense claim about a celebrities personal life. We're talking real economic damages, not hurt feelings.

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    * This, too, is a joke, so don't sue me for making a joke about your batteries. I'm actually a big fan of Tesla and am eagerly looking forward to the company's future models which look pretty damn cool.

    In other news, Mike Masnick was spotted the other day in his brand new Tesla...

     

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    hey tesla, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 3:48pm

    your cars suck.

     

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    T-Man, Mar 8th, 2012 @ 11:44pm

    What makes me saddest about all of this, is Nikola Tesla's name being dragged through the mud. Tesla uses his name for their company, and then does stupid things like this and making a bad name for themselves, and Nikola Tesla. Tesla was great, and I'm saddened that people will instead think of this crappy company instead of him when they hear the name Tesla.

    Also, if the cars died after 55 mile, then they died. It isn't libel, it's true.

     

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      iBelieve, Mar 9th, 2012 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      We're not complete morons. We know the difference between the discoveries and inventions of Nikola Tesla and this Tesla company. Why would you be sympathetic towards people who don't? Having said that, how do you know that Nikola Tesla wouldn't love to own a Tesla? I can imagine he would invent a beam of mildly hot blue electricity pulsating around his model as in the ultimate security car alarm! >:-D

       

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    Kaiser, Jun 7th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    Top Gear come on!

    Don't feel bad Tesla. I own a Lexus SC430, a $70,000 USD convertable that Top Gear called the worst car ever made. They compared my car to a cheap Hyndai and of course the liked the cheap car much better. The show is a goof, funny, stupid, and not to be taken as a source for buying a car. When the most reliable car made in its day, with the first working hard top convertable, 300hp, is the worst, I would love to drive the best. Ignore the show.

     

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    asdqadas, May 2nd, 2013 @ 2:27pm

    FUCK TESLA! JUST FUCK OFF, YOU LOSERS!!!!!!

     

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    Battery Powered Bunny (profile), Nov 14th, 2013 @ 6:09am

    Tyler Simpson - just ... NO !!!

    Tyler Simpson, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 3:31pm

    Re:
    The 55 miles part was written into the script. The car still had 100 miles of range left on it. That's libel.

    Are you for real ? It is not libel - I take it your are American or from some other “sue the world the first chance you get” place??

    Top Gear did not make the 55 mile range figure up .. it was calculated based on the consumption at the time (while on track) being driven like a sports car !! (as it is one !!) Apparently according to the manufacturer I should get 40 MPG from my car however I average about 24 MPG .. Why ?? .. Coz I don’t drive like a 90 yr old !!

     

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