Tesla Motors have lost a major part of their high court libel claim against the BBC’s motoring programme Top Gear.
The company, who manufacture the electric Roadster, accused Top Gear of making a number of false statements about their vehicle during a broadcast which appeared to show it running out of battery power during a race.
But Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled against Tesla at the high court in London today, saying that no reasonable Top Gear viewer would confuse the performance of the car on the programme’s test track with its likely performance on public roads.
Despite the setback, Tesla are still suing the programme for malicious falsehood and pursuing their claim that the show’s presenters – Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May – made five further false claims about the car on air.
The libel action was launched against the BBC earlier this year, with Tesla’s complaint centering on Clarkson, who claimed that the Roadster’s battery ran out after only 55 miles instead of the 200 Tesla claimed it could achieve.
However, Justice Tugendhat said “...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 track is capable of a direct comparison with a public road."
The US motor company claims to have suffered a “continuing impact" to its reputation from the Top Gear broadcast, resulting from its availability on BBC iPlayer, DVD and in syndication on other channels.
The BBC insists that the claim should be thrown out of court in its entirety.