Not one to back away from the bombardment of complaints they’ve received over the years, the producers of Top Gear have returned fire at Tesla over the latter’s surprising lawsuit against the popular British show.
Tesla is suing Top Gear for libel and malicious falsehood over a review of the Tesla Roadster that happened a little over two years ago. For their part, Top Gear is not one to lay down without a fight, or in this case, a response to Tesla’s claims. So the show’s executive producer, Andy Wilman, went on the offensive and released a letter explaining their side of the story.
It’s not the first time that Top Gear has been in hot water, but there seems to be a certain sense of seriousness with this particular lawsuit and we won’t be surprised if the British show sees this case all the way through the courts, as opposed to their usual routine of witty banter on one of their episodes.
To read about Andy Wilman’s response to Tesla’s claims, proceed after the jump.
gallery: Tesla Roadster 2.5
In response to Tesla’s lawsuit, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman made the following counter-points:
1. 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”. The first point here is that the track is where we do our tests of sports cars and supercars, as has happened ever since Top Gear existed. This is where cars are driven fast and hard, and since Tesla calls its roadster “The Supercar. Redefined.” it seemed pretty logical to us that the right test was a track test. The second point is that the figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Tesla’s boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles.
2. 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.
3. 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.
Furthermore, Willman also explained a pretty important aspect of Tesla’s complaints with the show’s scripting and how Top Gear allegedly had the script already written - with the official verdict on it - even before the taping began. In Willman’s words:
a) The truth is, Top Gear had already driven the car prior to filming, to enable us to form a view on it in advance
b) Our primary reasoning behind the verdict had nothing to do with how the Tesla performed; our conclusion was based mainly on the fact that it costs three times more than the petrol sports car upon which it’s based. It takes a long time to recharge, so you can’t use it as easily for the carefree motoring journeys that are a prerequisite of sports car driving. You can actually reach that conclusion without driving the car. As it happens, when it did come to the subjective area of how the car drove on the track, we were full of praise for its performance and handling.
c) Just so you understand there’s nothing devious going on, you need to know how this filming business works. When you film a car review, the reviewer is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind the lens is a film crew, and only a day’s worth of light to shoot the eight minute film. This means we have to prepare in advance a treatment – a rough draft of a script so that the director and film crew can get to work right away, knowing what shots they will need to capture. It will contain the facts about a car, and what we think of its looks and so on, but how well the car actually drives is added on the day. If we’ve driven it ahead of filming, as we do with most cars, we will also have an idea how it feels to drive. But, and this is crucial, as we uncover fresh information about a car whilst filming it, it is entirely normal for the treatment to be modified as the day unfolds. Jeremy is always tweaking the scripts to reflect what his driving experience has actually been on the day.