US electric-car maker Tesla has once again left a London High Court battle with Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson with its power cord between its legs.
The same judge who ruled on the original case last October has again deemed the British TV show did nothing libellous or maliciously false in its 2008 review of the electric sports car, which depicted it had run out of power when it had not.
The judge dismissed an amended lawsuit from Tesla, finding that the Top Gear segment was "not capable of being defamatory at all, or, if it is, it is not capable of being a sufficiently serious defamatory meaning to constitute a real and substantial tort."
In the original story which first aired in 2008, host Jeremy Clarkson said the roadster would run out of battery power after 55 miles (88km) if driven fast around its race track – about a quarter of the distance Tesla claims it can achieve in ideal conditions.
Clarkson's commentary said: "This car was really shaping up to be something wonderful but then ... (with the sound of a dying motor in the background and music slowing down to a stop) … although Tesla say it will do 200 miles we have worked out that on our track it will run out after just 55 miles and if it does run out it is not a quick job to charge it up again."
Tesla tried to sue Top Gear because although the footage showed the vehicle being pushed, it had power during the filming.
At the time Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, said the show was "completely phoney" because it had staged the event.
Musk told The Detroit News: "The fundamental thing with Top Gear is that the show was about as authentic as a Milli Vanilli concert, but the problem is most viewers don’t know that.
"For European investors, every single one, except one, specifically asked us why our car broke down on Top Gear. It was f---ed up."
However, in his most recent ruling the judge said: "As any reasonable motorist knows, a manufacturer's statement about the range of a motor vehicle is always qualified by a statement as to the driving conditions under which that range may be expected.
"For example, one range may be given for urban driving, and another for other conditions. But such statements are rarely, if ever, given to the public by reference to racing on a test track.
"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."
In a statement following the ruling, the BBC said: "We are pleased Mr Justice Tugendhat has ruled in favour of the BBC on both the issues before the court, first in striking out Tesla's libel claim against the BBC; and secondly in describing Tesla's malicious falsehood claim as so 'gravely deficient' it too could not be allowed to proceed."
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