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How We See It - Top Gear Lawsuit

On March 29 2011, Tesla filed a lawsuit to stop Top Gear’s continued rebroadcasts of an episode containing malicious falsehoods about the Tesla Roadster. Top Gear’s Executive Producer, Andy Wilman, has drafted a blog to present their side of the story. Like the episode itself, however, his proclamations do more to confound than enlighten.

Mr. Wilman admits that Top Gear wrote the script before filming the testing of the Roadsters. The script in question, concluding with the line "in the real world, it absolutely doesn’t work" was lying around on set while Top Gear was allegedly "testing" the Roadsters. It seems actual test results don’t matter when the verdict has already been given -- even if it means staging tests to meet those predetermined conclusions.

Now Mr. Wilman wants us to believe that when Top Gear concluded that the Roadster "doesn't work," it "had nothing to do with how the Tesla performed." Are we to take this seriously? According to Mr. Wilman, when Top Gear said the car "doesn't work," they "primarily" meant that it was too expensive. Surely they could have come to that conclusion without staging misleading scenes that made the car look like it didn’t work.

Mr. Wilman's other contentions are just as disingenuous. He states that they never said the Roadster "ran out of charge." If not, why were four men shown pushing it into the hangar?

Mr. Wilman states that "We never said that the Tesla was completely immobilized as a result of the motor overheating." If not, why is the Roadster depicted coming to a stop with the fabricated sound effect of a motor dying?

Mr. Wilman also objects to Tesla explaining our case, and the virtues of the Roadster. Top Gear has been re-broadcasting lies about the Roadster for years, yet are uncomfortable with Tesla helping journalists set the record straight about the Roadster’s revolutionary technology.

Mr. Wilman seems to want Top Gear to be judged neither by what it says, nor by what it does. Top Gear needs to provide its viewers, and Tesla, straightforward answers to these questions.

The straightforward answer is that Top Gear loved the car. They represented its (tiny) shortcomings in the framework of an entertainment show and in the style that they represent every car's shortcomings.

Top Gear's Tesla feature was the reason I discovered Tesla, the reason I fell in love with the brand, and the reason I still hope to buy a Roadster in Britain.

Their review was overwhelmingly positive. To hear Jeremy Clarkson talk with enthusiasm about an electric car ("the volthead has overtaken the petrolhead... yes, it is snowing in hell") was a milestone in itself, and -- for me -- the film showed the car in a very positive light. I Googled "Tesla" the moment it ended and read all I could about the company. I liked everything I saw.

Their conclusion -- that the car is 'an astonishing technical achievement' but that 'it doesn't seem to work' (not 'it absolutely doesn't work') -- came across as a critique of electric vehicles in general rather than as a criticism of the Roaster's reliability. My friends all said they'd love to own one; Top Gear hasn't affected our view of Tesla at all.

That the production crew had scripts is hardly surprising. They have to shoot to a schedule; they can't ad lib on the day. The 'fabricated sound of a motor dying' was not a sound effect; it was the audio track being slowed -- a common device used when objects are coming to a halt on screen. It's an entertainment show. It's supposed to be entertaining. And it is, on the whole, which might be why it's been on our screens cheekily poking fun at cars' weaknesses and celebrating their strengths for 30+ years.

So it's disappointing that Tesla have sued the BBC. If it's really because they believe that the car was misrepresented, then Tesla should have have gone back to Top Gear to show how they'd overcome any small problems the BBC had experienced, perhaps by having them review it off the track. That's what other experimental performance car manufacturers -- like Koenigsegg -- have done, and that's because they recognise that suing the producer of the world's most-loved car show isn't a good alternative; it doesn't enamour you in the eyes of your potential customers.

If, on the other hand, the decision to sue the BBC is to gain press attention -- as the tiny damages claim in the lawsuit would suggest -- then it just seems terribly misguided. Please reconsider these actions from the perspective of your British fans.

Maybe potential buyers of the Tesla roadster in the US have not been exposed to Top Gear as much as people in the UK, but as Top Gear reviews go, the Tesla review was astonishingly positive. The only car other cars that I've seen Jeremy Clarkson praise so highly are the Nissan GTR, and to a lesser extent, the Mitsubishi Evo X.

Is the review exaggerated, dramatized? Sure, just as much as every other review on Top Gear is. It's sad to see them being sued for just what they do. I can't help think that this lawsuit will only serve to damage the image of Tesla worldwide, especially among car lovers.

Sorry, I agree with Tesla here. Top Gear said and showed some very misleading information about the Roadster and by extension pretty much all EVs. There already is enough disinformation about EVs, Top Gear doesn't need to keep showing the same half truths over and over again in the name of entertainment. It doesn't sound like Tesla is asking for too much from Top Gear.

Stig loved the car, BBC and TG lied about it. They straight out lied during the show about what the car can or cannot do. Proper review would have mentioned Tesla chargers, not wall outlet with peek in miniature windmill, proper review would not have people giving impression that cars didn't have charge left and had to be pushed to the garage when they still had at least 20% of charge left and proper review would not have had "car dying" in test-track when nothing of the sort happened in reality etc.

Car is wonderful, it is hard to make review bad when you in reality have a car that beats most similar priced ICE cars any day in almost all aspects, but TG certainly tried to do that.

Yes it costs a lot, but it beat Porsche 911 GT3 in their track and got nearly same records (losing only 0.1 second) as Aston Martin Vanquish S, and Aston Martin DB9 which all costs more than Roadster, so that can't be the reason they conclude their review as "in real world it just doesn't work".

It chargers slower than filling a gas tank takes, but who cares? With 200+ mile range you rarely need to charge it middle of the trip, you charge it at night at your home. You never need to go to the gas-station which is a big positive point for EV (which they could have mentioned, but didn't).

With decent chargers mid-trip you can still do ~400-600 miles a day easily.

NG;
They tried very hard to go "... back to Top Gear to show how they'd overcome any small problems the BBC had experienced", insofar as those problems were real. No response that mode any sense or difference.

Anyway, the suit is publicity, and "there's no such thing as bad publicity". ;) That may be an overstatement, but it's close enough for television work.

I just don't get how Telsa do not understand the 55 mile range being an issue.

Of course nice, gentle driving will ensure a 200 mile plus range, but clearly not at a track - how can Tesla dispute this? It's obvious that a car driven 100% flat out will use more energy. This is the same with petrol cars, but the difference is that at the end of a hard drive you fill up the car (takes a few minutes) and drive home. What use is it to wait around for hours before you can drive home??

I was fortunate enough to take a V8 Vantage from London to the Nurburgring last summer, the journey there alone was 400 miles and about 6 hours, what use is it if I have to spend an extra 3 or 4 hours at the road side waiting for it to charge?

It's the practicalities of the car that Top Gear exposed. Same goes for the reliability - ok so maybe the car was technically driveable, but a loss of the brake servo (or such similar part) does not mean the car is still ok!

Telsa, what are you doing? Chasing the car enthusiasts favourite show over what you claim in your legal document to be not more than £100,000?

Is all press good press? Not so sure in this case. I for one will no longer be showing any interest in buying a Tesla. When it comes to changing the V8 (with all being well at work) I'll be walking in to Aston Martin Grange (my local dealer) and purchasing the beautiful V12 Vantage. It'll probably only have a range of 55 miles ;)

@funkstar, it is much much worse than just 55 mile range. They lied about the car. It was as much about how things were expressed as what was expressed.

TG didn't "expose practicalities". It hide them. It didn't tell you how you have your 200 mile range every day when you leave your garage. How you don't need to go to gas station ever. How you don't have any reliability problems ICE cars have. (BTW, I bet there has been several ICE cars breaking down in the test-drive, those just were never shown). How operating costs of the car are much lower than equally priced ICE car.

They didn't even mention how the car has performance of much more expensive cars, they compared it to Lotus Elise, which is way below Roadsters performance. Roadster sport beats your V12 Vantage in their track. Their Model S probably does the same.

Anyway, Roadster is a sport car, not a race car. At least they could have mentioned that it was never meant to have very fast charging, that's not the purpose of the car.

The only winners of a legal battle like this will be the lawyers. And as I said the old saying about no such thing as bad publicity was started by PR firms and maybe lawyers.

http://mycarquest.blogspot.com/2011/04/tesla-and-top-gear-silliness-cont...

http://mycarquest.blogspot.com/2011/03/tesla-takes-legal-action-against-...

http://mycarquest.blogspot.com/2011/04/bbcs-top-gear-executive-producer-...

My own test ride in a Tesla in 2005 is here:

http://mycarquest.blogspot.com/2011/02/tesla-roadster-test-ride.html

"there's no such thing as bad publicity" in this case might be right.

- TG is very known to general public.
- EV:s have bad reputation
- TM is suing TG for giving Roadster bad review.

Outcomes:

1) person that looks TG, doesn't know about not EV:s hears about this lawsuit: looks out what is this fuss about Roadster: more publicity, person gets knowledge that EV:s are not just golf carts.

2) person knows about EV:s, looks TG, but doesn't really trust about their capabilities of giving fair test: Pretty much no change. Might think this lawsuit is just major waste of time, "but who cares?"

3) Person doesn't look TG or know about EV:s, hears about lawsuit. Learns out what this fuss is about: more publicity, person gets knowledge that EV:s are not just golf carts. TG might get another viewer. Or not.

4) teeny weeny minority of peoples that either religiously trust TG start hating TM and vice versa.

I think this is good for both, if they manage to make it real media circus, everybody benefits from it.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking, Timo. Since the biggest barrier to TM right now is public unawareness, this would net out fairly positively.

But I actually think it's unnecessary for the volume of cars TM can produce in the next couple of years to be sold. In the end, it's performance, economy, looks and "green cachet" that's going to tell the tale.

The way I see it, both sides are wrong, and neither stands to gain anything by this mess. Both Tesla and Top Gear have screwed up, but both have the opportunity to improve because of it.

The brutal truth is that the Tesla Roadster is not perfect. No car is. There are excellent parts of the car, and there are parts that let the whole thing down. It is true that the battery is the Roadster's biggest weakness. That is an undeniable fact. Go ahead and sue.

Tesla cannot expect to claim that all criticism is defamation. Some of it is constructive. It is actually true that Top Gear, and every individual associated with it, believes the Roadster is a remarkable and groundbreaking vehicle that is already changing the face of green technologies, as well as setting new standards for alternative-fuel vehicles. As 'NC' pointed out, other manufacturers, most notably Koenigsegg, have previously produced cars that are excellent, but that have fared catastrophically on the runways at Dunsfold. What separates the successful manufacturers from the less successful is the ability to find an answer to every problem, not the problem in every answer.

To the hard working and innovative minds at Tesla Motors: It is too often overlooked that the battery technology required to maximize your model's potential simply does not yet exist. Your car's largest flaw is that it is truly ahead of its time. However, you have my full faith in producing an innovative solution to the setbacks your current model possesses, one that I look forward to seeing develop into an industry standard. My only advice is that you cease your fight with those who are not, in fact, your enemy. Investors and customers alike do not wish to do business with those who pick fights. Top Gear is a television show, one with its own sets of requirements and problems. They liked your car, and they brought up some excellent points, but they did it undeniably and inexcusably in the wrong manner. Produce a solution where both sides can work together to raise public awareness about alternative fuel vehicles, especially vehicles that, as your own 10 million miles show, work in the real world.

To Andy Wilman, Jeremy Clarkson, and the rest of the Top Gear team: Your journalism and presentation of 'facts' on that particular segment was nothing short of appalling. While your show routinely walks the fine line between exaggeration and falsehood, and has done successfully in the past, this time, you failed. As a die-hard fan, you’ve let me down. But like Tesla, you have a grand opportunity at redemption, one much simpler than producing ground-breaking technology. Apologize, and ensure that what you show about a car is real. Not only will it improve your journalistic integrity, it may just improve your show. With the experiences you’ve had with Top Gear, you should know that sometimes, what is real is far more fantastic than what is not.

To the rest of you: please remember that all great cars are built with a purpose. The Ford Model T and Volkswagen Beetle were built to be mass produced; the Chevrolet Corvette was built to challenge European sports cars of the day; the Toyota Prius was built to save people gas money; and the Bugatti Veyron was built simply to be the best. As ‘Timo’ noted, the Tesla Roadster was built to prove that battery electric vehicles could be more than golf carts. They can be cool, sporty, fast, and someday, available to the masses. To this end, the Roadster is a success; it is truly a great automobile. And the new Model S looks to fulfill Tesla's wishes even more. Forget about Aston Martin and Bugatti, and remember that the Roadster wasn't intended to be faster than anything. It just is.
And don’t forget either that Top Gear is one of the most successful shows on Earth; and although they do make mistakes, and exaggerate for entertainment’s sake, they truly love cars, and they know a good car when they see one. They also know how to criticize. They liked the Roadster, but they did have some reservations about it, and they presented those ideas on their show. But again, they make mistakes.

At the end of the day, everyone stands to improve from this. Tesla can build a better car, Top Gear can produce a better show, and the commenters here can be reminded of what makes the above two so great. But in the midst of disagreements and shortcoming, I can only hope that we can all agree, from around the world, on the impressiveness and achievements of the incredible Tesla Roadster.

Just to catch one part of your long post:

"They liked your car, and they brought up some excellent points"

Which points were those? Only thing I recall them mentioning was the acceleration which is pretty difficult to deny.

First impressions matter. Rational or not, it is very difficult and expensive for companies to change peoples minds about a product.

I think it's very hard to defend Tog Gear when their own employees had misgivings about the possibility of being sued over what they were doing before the show had even aired. That clearly shows they knew they were crossing a line, and they did it anyway. Like a child perpetuating a lie he's been caught in, Top Gear keeps making excuses. They need to stand up, apologize, and correct the issue.

Just think of all the congenial, nice, professional people that are enjoying their Roadsters day in and day out. Just very polite, articulate, and probably very attractive,{ha}. Who would be so brazen as to state things contrary to what these people are enjoying daily. Maybe tape a bucn of video testimoninials and show them to the court,ha.

cmac890: Good post but I actually think the battery is the Roadster's strength (compared to other EVs at least). I do wish it had a 500+ mile range for that once a year trip I take where it would come in handy but as long as you understand it's limitations before buying the car, it's not really much of a problem. There were simpler ways for Top Gear to educate people about range, how it's effected by speed....etc than taking it to the track full out and saying the range is only 55miles. That's like taking a Ferrari F40 out on the track and saying 'jeez, it only goes about 20 miles before it runs out of gas'. A true statement but not really applicable in the 'real world'.
I don't think Tesla is calming all the criticism is defamation. Simply that Top Gear knowingly lied and purposely misled on multiple points to give the impression that the Roadster was basically a non-functioning expensive toy and not useful in the real world.

You stupid, stupid, people at Tesla, and you stupid, stupid people who are suggesting Top Gear 'lied' about the car.

Tesla - you are attempting to have a generally glowing review of your car, on a popular motoring show, removed from broadcast around the world. You idiots. Do you not want massive, free publicity, and for a world of potential buyers to be introduced to how good your cars are to drive?

If you can't take a small amount of - to my mind justified - criticism about your vehicles, then you clearly have no confidence in them yourselves. I don't see other manufacturers suing the press because of a few negative remarks in an otherwise good review. The Ford GT ran out of fuel on the TG track, and I didn't see Ford suing Top Gear for suggesting it had a poor tank range. Did Tesla have to replace a fuse because the brakes weren't working as well as they should have or not? Could the Roadster have a 55 mile range under hard driving or not? If the answers to both of these questions are 'yes', then GET OVER IT, and stop hurting your company through bad press.

People that suggest Top Gear are lying - don't just read Tesla's misquoted comment about the car 'not working', and go and WATCH THE REVIEW. It's a very positive review, with a brief comment at the end that it 'doesn't SEEM to work in the real world'. This is an OPINION. Not a 'lie'. Got that? You do know the difference?

Really, all of you, grow up, realise that not everything you see on TV is meant to be taken as absolute gospel (you can form your own opinions without TV, right?), respect the right to free speech, and find out the FACTS before drawing conclusions for YOURSELVES, rather than just jumping on bandwagons.

@Gravelseeker, you don't obviously know anything about Roadster, or have not yourself watched that show, otherwise you would not say that "It's a very positive review". It was about as negative as they could possibly make it without leaving actual driving out of the picture.

@Timo - that's right, take 'the Tesla approach', and pick up on one tiny portion of my comment any rubbish that, rather than actually looking at the overall message. Bravo.

Sheesh... More shills.

And contradicting himself:

"and you stupid, stupid people who are suggesting Top Gear 'lied' about the car." Then later "grow up, realise that not everything you see on TV is meant to be taken as absolute gospel" .

Gravelseeker, please take your own advice, and don't idolize TG as a dogma. Because your world will collapse, once the dogma is broken. In your own words "find out the FACTS before drawing conclusions for YOURSELVES"...

Here is a really realistic bunch of people who respect the limitations of the current technology and products. You come in swinging insults and rambling incoherently, regardless of facts and "real life". Please do the minimum research before laying claims and throwing insults at large.

Unless you are a TG shill, and this is just a part of the plan.

@ Tiebreaker: at what point did I contradict myself, and where did I state anything as a fact that wasn't? My comment about not taking everything on TV as gospel related to the fact - alluded to in various posts and discussions on the lawsuit - that Top Gear and other shows present things in a manner that is primarily meant to entertain, and hence add things like 'artistic' shots to accentuate points in the articles. E.g. because you see a car being pushed into a garage, that doesn't mean that the car broke down on the test (and wasn't meant to) - just as when you see covers being pulled off a new car, it doesn't mean that car's just been built. It's drama, art, it's meant to make the show more look more apealing and interesting, rather than just a dull listing of some boring facts. That incidental music you hear in the background? That was added by sound technicians after the event was filmed - there wasn't a full orchestra sitting just behind the camera.

My point is that there were no lies in the TG article. There were, however, some artistic decisions, that those with some sort of point to prove have taken to wilfully misinterpret to 'prove' their case.

Gravelseeker calling people stupid here isn't going to win your argument.
I will agree that the review started out very positively, but it did go down hill as the program went on and that is the part most people will remember. I do have to point out that when TG says the Roadster ran out of power and then show it being pushed into the garage, that certainly says to me the car isn't working at all. When they say the motor got hot and show the car dead on the track, that certainly means it was undriveable at that moment.

EVs and Tesla don't need that kind of misinformation.

@Sparrow - 'Gravelseeker calling people stupid here isn't going to win your argument', no, but it sums-up my level of feeling on this, and other issues in the disgusting compensation culture that the world seems to be slipping unavoidably into. I think just the comments on this forum have demonstrated that TG's article was not 'clearly' intending to 'maliciously' damage Tesla, or mislead viewers. If it was clear, then why has it divided opinion? Yes, some viewers appear to have been misled, but you show me a TV broadcast that hasn't caused viewers to have different viewpoints.

If TG had come out and stated that 'the Tesla Roadster will run out of charge in 55 miles in real-world driving' or something like that, then I could see why Tesla would have a bee in their bonnet, but they didn't. They made an article that a small minority (I'm inferring a small minority because it took three years for anyone to complain about it) didn't agree with. And for this they are to be sued.

If the lawsuit is successful (and my guess - and hope - is it will never come to court), imagine the repercussions. Every car review in every TV show, and perhaps every magazine too, will have to be reviewed in minute detail by a team of lawyers before publication, in case there's one tiny element of it that could possibly be misconstrued by someone, and tongue-in-cheek broadcasts like Top Gear will be sanitised beyond reason. God help you if you try to make a review entertaining or amusing.

@Gravelseeker

See the quotes from your post in my post. You are tripping over your own tongue.

Unless you are a TG shill, and this is just a part of the plan.

I want to point out that Tesla is allowing this discussion to go on on their web site while Top Gear has not allowed comments on their blog post on this subject.

I repeat my advice to both Tesla and Top Gear - it is not a good idea to have a dialog with the public about a pending lawsuit.

Also, again my advice about how to resolve the matter is for Tesla to provide their latest car and Top Gear to do a test on this car and broadcast the results. Tesla then lives with the results which I predict will be more to their liking that the 2008 test.

http://mycarquest.blogspot.com/

Gravelseeker, claiming that the car was pushed in order to create dramatic effect, and that any reasonable person not would assume it was because the car was immobilized, is so clearly ridiculous that the proposition represents a forfeiture to be taken seriously.

@MyCarQuest

It won't necessarily be more to Tesla's liking. If they follow their previous approach, they'll use the Model S charged at 80% (as recommended), drive it at 120 mph and complain that it would only go 90 miles instead of the advertised 300 miles.

@Gravelseeker, did you actually saw the show? Really?

If yes, then you have to understand that TG lied about the car, not so much by words, but what was shown. Fact: Roadster lowered power to prevent engine overheating, car could be driven just fine, just racing was not possible. Shown: car sitting on track apparently because of engine overheated. Fact: both cars had charge left during entire filming. Shown: Roadster died on the track with implication that car run out of charge (with artificial engine dying sounds and just before comment about 55 mile range), and it was pushed on the garage for charging. Fact: one of the cars were drivable at all times, Shown (and said): both cars undrivable at the same time. Fact: Roadster has performance and quality of much more expensive ICE cars. Shown: comparison to Lotus Elise, which is just about same as comparing Porsche 911 to VW Beetle.

Also they neglect to tell about all possible good things, they mentioned charging using ordinary wall socket, yes it takes very long time to charge car using it, but using charger Roadster can be charged in less than four hours. They neglect to tell that you basically never need to go to gas station. They did show some miniature windmill and say that it takes forever (600h) to charge the car using it. Correct, if I grow crops in my balcony and distill the product to produce one gallon of fuel, that also takes forever. Comment "lets not forget where the electricity comes from" with speedy trip to power station, which implicates the "long tailpipe" argument. True, electricity comes from power plant, but also refining gallon of fuel uses about 6kWh of electricity and because of efficiency of electric cars 20mpg ICE car is in par with electricity usage of EV

And so on and on. It was very negative review, with lies in it.

Also lawsuit was a last resort, TM had been trying to contact TG about these issues over this entire time, but they had not responded.

The crux of the lawsuit is that TG is heavily re-airing the show without the slightest acknowledgment of its "staging" of the power-out and overheating "crises". It has the effect of a deliberate disinformation campaign.

I give up. I really do. You lot clearly have so little grasp of the difference between a film that's intended to entertain and illustrate a point, and what's meant to be an accurate depiction of a real event, that there's no point trying to explain it to you any more. You really seem to believe that, for example, obviously slowing down an audio soundtrack is supposed to be 'the fabricated noise of an engine dying', and are so blinkered that you totally ignore the fact that the narration clearly stated that this was a theoretical outcome calculated by Tesla themselves.

I bet if you watched a recent Top Gear episode, where they jokingly 'claimed' that a rusty Eastern-European compact car was actually a Bentley Mulsanne, you'd scream that TG were guilty of 'malicious falsehoods' against Bentley and suggest they sue. It's en-ter-tain-ment people. If TV had to be written for the lowest common denominator to avoid any possible confusion by anyone, we'd all be watching a blank screen.


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