Top Gear is in trouble again, but for once it's actually a car manufacturer it has annoyed.

American company Tesla, which makes the £87,945 electric Roadster, is suing the makers of the BBC programme for what it calls "lies and misinformation about the Roadster's performance, behaviour and reliability".


The show in question actually aired two years ago on 14 December 2008, and featured a race between a Tesla and a conventionally powered Lotus Elise. All was going well, with the electric car winning, until the programme appeared to show the Tesla running out of charge.

Tesla says this was a misrepresentation, and that the show also lied about the car's range, saying it could only do 55 miles between charges rather than 211. The company has formally issued proceedings against the show, listing three further issues of misrepresentation.

The first was that the Roadster's motor overheated and was completely immobilised as a result, second, the Roadster's brakes were broken, rendering the car undriveable and finally, that neither of the two Roadsters provided to Top Gear was available for test driving due to these problems.

On paper, the Roadster should have been a match for the petrol Elise, with a 284bhp engine that takes it to 60mph in just 3.9 seconds in basic form, and 3.7 seconds in the £102,895 Roadster Sport. Even if it does more than 55 miles between charges, there seems to be some confusion over its range - the legal complaint says it will do 211 miles, while the car's official website claims 245 miles. The 211 mile range is for the UK though, and the company says the 245 range is for the US.

Tesla says that it has asked Top Gear to correct the errors as the show has continued to air on other TV channels, is included on an official DVD and is available on the internet. It says: "Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they've repeatedly ignored Tesla's requests."

Tesla has even gone so far as to set up a website to show the full details of its claim - www.teslavstopgear.com. Whatever the outcome of the eventual case, this has all provided a welcome boost in publicity for the American car maker.