Electric sports carmaker Tesla Motors has lost a major part of its high court libel claim against the BBC’s Top Gear programme, but is still suing the corporation for malicious falsehood over an episode that showed the company’s Roadster model running out of battery in a race.
Ruling at the high court in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that no Top Gear viewer would have reasonably compared the car’s performance on the show’s airfield track to its likely performance on a public road.
Judge Tugendhat ruled
In my judgment, the words complained of are wholly incapable of conveying any meaning at all to the effect that the claimant [Tesla] misled anyone.
This is because there is a contrast between the style of driving and the nature of the track as compared with the conditions on a public road […] are so great that no reasonable person could understand that the performance on the [Top Gear] track is capable of a direct comparison with a public road
Which is remarkably similar to the argument I forwarded earlier this year:
Since even Tesla has admitted that the first-gen Roadster wasn’t a track car, wouldn’t it have been even more misleading for Top Gear to depict it as a car that is capable of driving its entire claimed range in hot-lap driving?
Justice Tugendhat is expected to rule on the “malicious falsehood” complaint later this week, but don’t be surprised if it’s thrown out. And even if it isn’t, one wonders why Tesla went to all this trouble. Their claim in court is that the 2008 broadcast continues to impact their business because of its availability via download, DVD, and syndication. But really, that can’t be than the negative publicity generated by Tesla’s belated and highly-public attempt to sue the world’s most popular motoring show.