During the twelfth series of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson's review of the Tesla Roadster courted controversy after he claimed that the car had run out after eighty-eight kilometres, would take sixteen hours to recharge, and that the car brakes had failed.
Clarkson's scathing review of the Tesla Roadster aired during the seventh episode of the twelfth series of Top Gear. In the item, the two Roadsters that were provided by Tesla were depicted as having broken down or run out of charge, eventually both at the same time. Footage was also shown of the Teslas needing to be pushed into a garage for repairs or recharging during the review. Clarkson stated that the range of the roadster was a mere fifty-five miles and that it would take more than sixteen hours to recharge fully.
Tesla countered most of the claims made by Clarkson during his review. A spokesperson for the company claimed that neither of the cars provided ever needed to be pushed into the garage as the level of charge on the batteries never dipped below twenty-percent. The spokesperson also claimed that the recharge time of the Roadster was actually three and a half hours, rather than the claimed sixteen, and that the faulty brakes on one of the cars was actually just a blown fuse. The BBC later responded by saying that they "stood by the findings of the film" and "were content that it offered a fair representation of the Tesla's performance on the day". Later, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, reignited the controversy again by claiming that the Tesla team, while delivery the cars to the test track, noticed a script for the segment on a bench that had the Tesla's already malfunction written. Top Gear, the BBC, and Clarkson deny this.
Tesla attempted to sue the BBC for libel in March, 2011. The courts ruled in favour of the BBC, saying that no viewer of the show would be likely to reasonably compare the Roadster's performance on the show with its performance in the real world. The courts threw out Tesla's remaining malicious falsehoods claims against the BBC at the end of October, 2011. Tesla's appeal was eventually ruled against in 2013, with the courts deciding that the film "had not damaged Tesla's reputation".
Relationship Between Tesla and Top Gear
As a result of the incident, Tesla refused to provide any of its later models to Top Gear for testing. In 2014, however, Richard Hammond tested a Tesla Model S outside of Top Gear in a written piece for The Mirror. The car was not provided to Hammond by Tesla. Clarkson himself will review a Tesla Model X in the upcoming second series of The Grand Tour, though it was later revealed that they, again, had not received the car from Tesla.