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Television The Courts Transportation United Kingdom Entertainment

Tesla Motors Loses Appeal Against BBC's Top Gear 385

Posted by timothy
from the plus-they-had-to-drive-it-left-handed dept.
TrueSatan writes "In a highly detailed decision, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected Tesla's appeal against an eartlier ruling by a lower court that, too, rejected Tesla's case. Reading through the decision it is clear that the judge saw Tesla's case as lacking sufficient detail and specific instances of proof to support each claim. The judge stated that that Tesla's chances of a successful appeal, should the case have gone to trial, were insufficiently high to justify holding a trial. He stated that Tesla's case had no real chance of success and in many notes picked appart Tesla's legal team's arguments. That said, he did not say that Top Gear were right or justified in portraying Tesla's vehicle in the way they did — merely that there wasn't a legal case for an appeal. One of the key flaws in Tesla's case, according to the judicial decision, was Tesla's inability to show that actual pecuniary harm, with detailed financial figures, had occurred."
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Tesla Motors Loses Appeal Against BBC's Top Gear

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  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:41AM (#43078393)

    With some of the costs paid by the UK taxpayer and the BBC license fee payers, Tesla really got lots of mileage (see what I did there?) out of this one.

    I agree that the amount of pecuniary harm this did them is probably zero - they were already selling out their full production capacity of Roadster vehicles. Top Gear was not limiting their profits, their production capacity was.

    But now their product and brand has had a great deal more exposure.

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:05AM (#43078651)

      With some of the costs paid by the UK taxpayer and the BBC license fee payers *snip*

      Top Gear is fully funded from its own revenue streams, such as live shows and sales to syndication - its a huge profit center to the BBC, and funds itself rather than needing funding from the BBC license fee.

    • by Grayhand (2610049)
      The hit could be on stock value since it questioned the reliability of the car and the stock has fallen inspite of the cars selling out. I knew Clarkson was trying to make the Tesla look bad when I saw the episode but I was outraged when I found out the breakdowns were scripted ahead of time. The episode was irresponsible at best and more likely malicious intending to harm Telsa because Clarkson has a hatred of electrical vehicles which he often mentions. I used to love the show and was a Clarkson fan but I
      • by jandrese (485)
        I wouldn't take any car review on Top Gear seriously, it's a comedy show first and a car show second. Clarkson is also highly opinionated and doesn't mind showing it. James May probably would have given the Tesla a much more positive review, much like how he gushed over that prototype fuel cell Honda a few years ago.
        • James May probably would have given the Tesla a much more positive review,

          And that's why Clarkson didn't let him review it. His bias against anything green is far stronger than his integrity.

          (And yes, I know in most shows it's the producers that decide, I have no doubt that all Top Gear decisions are subject to approval by Clarkson.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BasilBrush (643681)

        I still watch the show, because it's still funny.

        It's always been obvious they fake various things. It's never an accident when a caravan gets destroyed. The presenters don't really go out and buy the cars they use for the various cross country in a second hand car challenges. Etc.

        However, since the Tesla episode I now know that there is literally nothing that they won't fake. And nothing they won't lie about.

        Despite the fact that I do find it funny and still watch, I think it hurts the credibility of the B

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          What amazes me is that manufacturers/dealers keep giving them cars to review. Nissan gave them Leaf EVs to "test" and predictably they did a hatchet job on them. The even lied outright about the battery pack only lasting 7 years when at the time of broadcast Nissan were offering an 8 year warranty on it.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:46AM (#43078443)

    Because that's all it is really. And to a certain extent I sympathise with Tesla somewhat - Top gear did represent the car as a bit of a dud whereas in fact they weren't 100% truthful with what happened. But then I suppose if you let your car be tested on what is effectively a car based comedy show you shouldn't expect unbiased reviews.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PortHaven (242123)

      I think what Tesla did constitutes fraud and libel. Why can't companies be held to libel as easily as individuals?

    • Tesla have thrown their toys out of the pram here, and it didn't go in their favour - Top Gear routinely say outrageous things about cars, but I've never seen a Vauxhall Astra blow up (despite Clarkson claiming that as a common fault with them) etc etc etc.

      Its an entertainment show, nothing more.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        I think you'd throw your toys out of the pram too if your billion dollar investment was unfairly dragged through the mud and harmed for the sake of a review with "colour". See also the NYT review. I suppose the only silver lining for Tesla was they learned not to trust journos to tell the truth and enabled logging.
    • Top Gear is always far more harsh to American cars then any other countries cars, and they always misrepresent electric cars.

      I enjoy the show, but I am sure to have a grain of salt...the size of me head.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:27AM (#43078881)
      Top Gear is an entertainment show, not a documentary. I wouldn't believe the results of any of the "testing" they do on there if I were looking to buy a car.

      The kind of people who buy the cars featured on Top Gear couldn't care less about whether it was panned on Top Gear or not.
  • Exaggerations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RazorSharp (1418697) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:47AM (#43078459)

    The people at Tesla should have watched an episode of Top Gear before they let those guys drive their car. Clarkson trashes anything he disapproves of -- that means most American cars, Japanese cars, and anything 'eco-friendly.' It was obvious they were exaggerating when it came to the Tesla but they had a valid point. You can't drive that thing balls-to-the-wall around the track without running out of juice super quick, and it takes a long time to recharge. That makes it a no-go for track enthusiasts, precisely the crowd it could appeal to.

    For most people, going to the track is an expensive and time-consuming activity. They don't have time to wait for their electric car to recharge, they want to get the most out of their weekend at the track as possible. A muscle car or Italian super car may go through fuel like mad, but filling it up takes mere minutes. That's the point Top Gear was making, they were just being real mean about it. Anyone who thinks that Clarkson and the boys don't bullshit for the sake of entertainment just haven't seen the show. It's pretty obvious when they are exaggerating or staging something. In the end, the opinions they give are genuine, however full of bias they may be.

    • Re:Exaggerations (Score:4, Informative)

      by Psyborgue (699890) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:57AM (#43078581) Homepage Journal
      They didn't have a valid point. The car did not run out of power. The show portrayed the car begin pushed, as i if it actually had. That may not have been an explicit lie (i mean, you can push a car that's full of gas, too), but it sure as shit is a misleading, asshole move. The car, fully charged, will get you over 300 miles, as I understand it, though less so at very high speeds. It can fast charge in an hour or so to 80%, which isn't so bad, even long distance. In a pinch you can charge it off a regular power outlet, though that takes a lot longer. The point being that unless you're trying very hard and ignoring the car's very clear warnings, it will not leave you stranded any more than a gas car will.
      • Re:Exaggerations (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:10AM (#43078705)

        Yes, it will leave me stranded more than a gas car will - with an electric car, I have to plan my journey well ahead of getting into the car, while with a petrol or diesel powered car I can make sudden, unplanned 300 mile journeys without thinking about it.

        That might change in the future, but right now its the balls bare reality of electric car ownership.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          But you could not have done that when petrol cars where new either.
          Also, super charging station are being put through the UK, and on the West cost of the US. That means a full chard in an hour. So it's getting their.

          All that is besides the point. The CLEARLY implied the car was out of juice when it wasn't.
          For the VAST majority of car drivers, not being able to take a 300+ mile road trip without stopping does not apply to them.

          • by Rogerborg (306625)

            Petrol cars aren't new though. Thus the contrast.

            There were no charging stations in the UK when the programme was made. Can you point at a single "super" charging station now?

            That model had a 200 mile claimed range, not 300. You've just added 50% because, bawww, that's why.

          • Oh yay, I only have to hang around somewhere for an hour to get it charged so I can move on.

            So what if super charging stations are being put in throughout the UK - how long will it be until I don't have to treat an electric car any more differently than my current vehicle? You can make a point about "but electric vehicles are new, just you wait, all the infrastructure will magically appear!" all you want, but I have a perfectly usable form of transport right now and the suggested replacement DOES NOT MATCH

      • Re:Exaggerations (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:13AM (#43078729)

        Also, does it really matter that it didn't actually run out of power? Should the Top Gear production crew have driven the car around the track for another 30 minutes just to get it to die, so they could get the shot legitimately when the point was the same?

      • It is a TV show. They fake lots of stuff. They test cars, then report on that in a very subjective way. Anyone can see that.
        All Tesla are essentially claiming is that it is the wrong subjective way. It's a stupid and empty claim. You might as well sue Sesame street for portraying people as having spherical orange and yellow heads.

        The show is from the UK, which is in Europe, which means you do not get a disclaimer or a warning with every little detail. The show pretends to be objective, but is completely fak

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Except the point of contention wasn't subjective. The STRONG implied the car ran out of energy when it didn't. That is not subjective in the least.

          • Except the point of contention wasn't subjective. The STRONG implied the car ran out of energy when it didn't. That is not subjective in the least.

            They have plenty of flatbeds to haul the thing. The audience knew the pushing of the car was staged b/c those guys wouldn't have pushed it anyway. Their point was valid -- it only got decent mileage if you drove it like a grandma.

        • by _xeno_ (155264)

          The show is from the UK, which is in Europe, which means you do not get a disclaimer or a warning with every little detail.

          Incidentally, there is a US version of Top Gear that airs on the History Channel. It basically removes all the "power lap" times and all the car reviews, and solely does the stunts (like turning an ambulance into a taxi) using three very boring and uninteresting Americans.

          It includes warning banners indicating that the stunts are faked.

          And is "brought to you by" American car companies, which is probably why they don't do car reviews.

      • Re:Exaggerations (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:17AM (#43078789)

        They certainly did have a valid point. They weren't even trashing the car, I've seen that episode half a dozen times and they rave about the acceleration, the quality of the interior, the handling... But, at the very end, they go on to say But! We had all of these maintenance problems. The breaks failed, the charger failed, the battery ran out of juice after 60 miles... etc... I believe he even said "It's just not ready yet" and a truer statement could not have been made. In the future, electric cars will be great. They are not great now. They took the car on a racetrack, that's what they do... this car sucks on a racetrack. This car is priced in the range of Porsche, Mazaradi, etc... it was compared to them and found lacking.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        It was a valid point, and anyways, it was hardly the only problem they had with the car, remember the brake failure? The one that isn't really a brake failure because apparently, having a wheel seize up isn't a brake failure if it's just the fuse. Or some bullshit like that.

        And, from what others have done, the battery gauge is just as inaccurate as in any other device, remember the other feud that Tesla is having with the NYT over its review of the car?

        The point is, that it was Tesla's figures that estimate

      • by Motard (1553251)

        They said they worked out that on their track the car would be out of juice after 55 miles (or whatever). That was the point. After that they'd have to put it away. They never drive cars of any type into their garage. They're always pushed in. This was simply demonstrating that without going through the unnecessary step of actually running it out.

        They didn't have a fast charger. So that wasn't an option. They did note that they could charge it but it would take something like 16 hours with their outl

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Congratulations, you just added 50% to the claimed range of that model. That may not have been an explicit ...
      • It's not the warning, it's the *penalty* faced for ignoring those warnings. Say you ignore them and are stranded on the track.

        In a petrol car, you can call the garage, and they will send some one with a can of petrol, and within five minutes, you are good to go.

        In a Tesla, you have drag the car back, and start a *lengthy* recharge process, since it's unlikely a random given track will have the super-charger. But say they do, even then, a) there is a drag back involved; and b) the recharge time is *still* mo

      • They didn't have a valid point. The car did not run out of power. The show portrayed the car begin pushed, as i if it actually had. That may not have been an explicit lie (i mean, you can push a car that's full of gas, too), but it sure as shit is a misleading, asshole move. The car, fully charged, will get you over 300 miles, as I understand it, though less so at very high speeds. It can fast charge in an hour or so to 80%, which isn't so bad, even long distance. In a pinch you can charge it off a regular power outlet, though that takes a lot longer. The point being that unless you're trying very hard and ignoring the car's very clear warnings, it will not leave you stranded any more than a gas car will.

        So your point is that because they didn't actually run the car's batteries down they can't draw attention to the car's batteries running down very quick in track environments and having to wait 40-200x longer then a gas vehicle to recharge it. It would have been nice to see the track day range of the Tesla I'm guessing 60-80 miles but I have yet to see any creditable numbers on it.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Who drives a thing balls to the wall around a track though? It's a totally artificial test of the manner in which the car would be typically used.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That makes it a no-go for track enthusiasts, precisely the crowd it could appeal to.

      This is where you fell on your ass. This is not a car for track enthusiasts, who are willing to spend a lot more. Because you can't afford one, you think that all the people who can afford one are in some sort of mystical class that doesn't exist.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        Utter hogwash.

        3.7 seconds to 60mph... the Roadster's instant torque blows the doors off nearly every car in its class... world-class acceleration ... ranks amongst the world's most coveted sports cars... premium sports car.... The electric powertrain enables unprecedented responsiveness. The Roadster becomes an extension of the driver and reacts in an instant. The optional custom-tuned suspension allows the driver to adjust the handling to their preference. ... The Roadster offers supercar performance... s

      • Top Gear was evaluating the Roadster as a 'Track Day Car'. It was in the introduction.

        You are right, the Roadster is unsuitable as a track day car. It's range on the track makes it useless. It's tires and battery pack make it handle like a container ship. Unbalanced, pushes bad. This was in the Top Gear show. Did you watch it or get all your information from Tesla's shysters?

        For much less money then a Tesla a 'driver' can have himself a Ariel Atom or Lotus Elise (the roadster is basically a ruined Elis

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:39AM (#43079009)

      No, it's not an exaggeration, it is the exact fact, the figure of 55 mile on the track came from Tesla themselves.

      The claim from Tesla came from a willful misinterpretation of the *FACT* Clarkson stated. The claimed that Clarkson had implied that the car would only go 55 miles on the road.

      The judge look at it and said no. 55 miles on the track is not 55 miles on the road and nobody would confuse the two.

      They had no case, the lawsuit was simply to attempt to suppress bad reviews. Top Gear won and would never have lost.

      To Gear response to Elon Musks attack on them:

      http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1057825_top-gear-responds-to-tesla-lawsuit

      " We never said that the Tesla’s true range is only 55 miles, as opposed to their own claim of 211, or that it had actually ran out of charge. In the film our actual words were: “We calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles”."
      Elon Musk had tried to raise a straw man to knock down.

      "We never said that the Tesla was completely immobilized as a result of the motor overheating. We said the car had “reduced power”. This was true."
      Indeed it was true.

      "Tesla claims we were lying when we said the brakes were “broken”. They now say that all that had happened was that the fuse to the vacuum pump had failed, which meant that the brake just had to be pushed down much harder than usual. Well – to my mind, if the brakes are broken, then they’re broken, and if this happened to your car, you’d take it to the garage to get it fixed. Odd it seems so trivial to Tesla now, because on the day of filming they insisted on repairing the fuse before we could carry on driving the car."

      You know, many of you swallow the straw man arguments Elon Musk puts forward as if they are true. They're not, he *pretends* a critic has made claim X, because claim X is easier to knock down, than the unpleasant truth they actually said.

    • That makes it a no-go for track enthusiasts, precisely the crowd it could appeal to.

      I don't get this at all. An electric car makes no sense to me for track enthusiasts. I'm not one, but if I were, I think I'd want something that goes really fast, sticks to the ground through the turns like it's on rails, and yes, refuels quickly if I want to play for a long time. I can't think why I'd want an electric for this purpose.

      It's like reviewing the world's best dump truck. Tesla's not building a track car any

  • Objective analysis is not always the best. It does, however, provide an opinion that is unavailable on advertiser supported review publications where the writers depends on the firms who product they review for revenue, if not kickbacks and straight out bribes. Something like this indicates a level of credibility.

    If only the same decision was made when consumer reports told us that the Suzuki was unsafe to drive. Gain, an objective but not necessarily unbiased publication that stated the test methods a

  • by sunking2 (521698)
    A show that has run its course. I even went to bed early and didn't even finish last nights episode. It's really not been very entertaining the last 2 seasons and it seems forced.
  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:32AM (#43078929)

    Tesla is getting the shaft. They're doing some interesting things, and there was a point I could actually afford and want one of their cars... but I live in an area without lots of charging options.

    On one hand, that newspaper review was borderline libel. They have the records backing them up and proved the newspaper reporter was a liar... though somehow the writer is trying to defend himself.

    But Top Gear... I only watch it every now and then and it's pretty clear that a lot of their "reviews" are a bit sensationalized / comedic / petty. My "favorite" was when they found out the Cadillac CTS-V was actually a decent sports car... so they had to harp that the bell constantly chimed when the door was open. He showed the bit like 5+ times throughout the review and whined that "yes we know the door is open." Yet they failed to mention they left their KEYS in the ignition so the bell/chime was really saying "dude you left your keys in a car with an open door" At least the guy had to say "I can't believe I am going to say this, but this car is actually decent"

    There have been others. The guys often have their minds made up about how much they dislike a car/company early on and decide to do comedy bits about this-or-that.

    So really, you can't really be surprised that Top Gear decided to mock the Tesla for no reason. It's like if you decided to appear on on one of those old day talk shows like "Jerry Springer" and are surprised they decided to hit you with a "gotcha" or surprise pregnancy... what did you THINK was going to happen?

  • I see a pattern here. Poor Tesla; such bad luck that journalists always pick on them.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:18AM (#43079493) Homepage

    According p. 67 of the auto issue, "Look for a full test [of the Tesla Model S] in a forthcoming issue." Their test track is in Connecticut, and hopefully they will have done some tests in chilly weather.

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