Tesla's Top Gear libel case blows a fuse

Top Gear has won the first round of the fight it's having with Tesla, after the electric carmaker asked if Clarkson and co would care to step outside following a 2008 episode.

The high voltage handbags session is the result of a Top Gear show in which the presenters went to town on the electric Tesla Roadster's alleged deficiencies.
Those deficiencies, asserted Top Gear, included a battery that went flat after 55 miles – just over a quarter of Tesla's claimed range – and 'brake failure', which Tesla says was actually just a blown fuse.

Tesla believes that the whole Top Gear feature was a hatchet job that damaged its global reputation - and continues to do so - and began libel proceedings against the show almost immediately after it was first aired.

But during a ruling at the High Court in London, a judge said that Top Gear viewers are smart enough to distinguish between the Tesla's performance on a track and on a public road.

Or as presiding judge Justice Tugendhat put it: "No reasonable person could understand that the performance on the track is capable of a direct comparison with a public road."

So, Top Gear did not libel Tesla, officially...

But the scrap continues, because the car company's malicious falsehood claim still stands, and could yet see the BBC disciplined for the actions of its unruly middle aged motoring trio.

Those malicious falsehoods - there are five of them - include a set piece in which the Tesla conked out after overheating, prompting the TG presenters to push the car back to a workshop.

The whole thing continues to have a big negative affect on the brand, says Tesla, because of the episode's availability on BBC iPlayer, as well as through repeats on Dave and via worldwide syndication.

A final judgement on the malicious falsehood claim is expected within the next few weeks.

If you want to win tickets to see the non-libelous but potentially maliciously falsifying Top Gear squad live, click here.
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