Tesla sues Top Gear for libel and malicious falsehood

North American electric car company Tesla Motors has filed a legal action against the BBC's globally successful petrolhead show Top Gear, claiming that the episode in which its Roadster vehicle was reviewed contained "lies and misinformation" about the vehicle’s "performance, behaviour and reliability."

The episode, which was originally broadcast in 2008, showed Jeremy Clarkson haring the car around the Top Gear track, before employing the help of four men to push it into a garage because it had run out of charge. The programme also showed the Roadster had broken down several times during testing.

Tesla claims that these were fabricated to show its electric sports car in a bad light: "The breakdowns were staged and the statements are untrue," the manufacturer says in a statement. "Yet the programme’s lies are repeatedly and consistently re-broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide on BBC television and web sites, and on other TV channels via syndication; the show is available on the internet, and is for sale on Top Gear DVD’s around the world."

It also says that it would have been happy with the BBC to have stopped rebroadcasting the offending episode, but that any requests to do so have been met with deaf ears: "Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they’ve repeatedly ignored Tesla’s requests."

And so the need for legal action.

The BBC, though, is sticking by the original test: "We can confirm that we have received notification that Tesla have issued proceedings against the BBC," said a Top Gear spokesperson.

"The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim."