Clarkson described the Tesla CEO as “petulant” in a recent interview.
Jeremy Clarkson has a famously hostile relationship with Tesla. Back when he used to present Top Gear, he gave the first Tesla Roadster a scathing review praising its performance but criticizing its handling and poor electric range. This prompted Tesla CEO Elon Musk to file a lawsuit against the BBC claiming that Top Gear faked scenes of the Roadster running out of power and suffering brake failure for entertainment value. He lost, but he continued to attack the Top Gear team claiming their shows were more about “entertainment” than the “truth.”
Unsurprisingly, Tesla didn’t feature in Top Gear ever again during the Clarkson, Hammond and May era. The electric car automaker has, of course, evolved rapidly since launching the first Lotus Elise-based Roadster. Even Clarkson recently conceded that Tesla now deserves recognition, declaring the Model X, which features in an upcoming episode of The Grand Tour, as “very impressive.” But while he has a new-found respect for Tesla’s electric cars, he still isn’t a fan of Elon Musk. “He sued me and lost, he appealed and lost. You go online and you read that we ‘made it up,’ that we ‘faked it’…We didn’t,” Clarkson said in an interview with The Daily Beast.
“You see, if anybody is going to get sued, I mean you can't say that sort of thing. I could say all sorts of things about Musk but I won’t. Musk doesn’t like losing. Unfortunately he did twice…He’s just got sour grapes. I actually reviewed the new Tesla in the new show and in many ways, it’s tremendous,” he continued. “I’ve got no ax to grind. He’s the only one who ever behaved in such a petulant way—most industry bosses are a lot more grown up.” Clarkson hasn’t embraced fully electric cars in the past, but he was left impressed with the Rimac Concept One’s blistering performance when it humiliated the hybrid Honda NSX and V12-powered Lamborghini Aventador S in the opening episode of The Grand Tour Season Two.
We’re currently witnessing a turning point in the auto industry as technology continues to advance rapidly, resulting in cars with levels of power we could have only dreamt of a decade ago. Clarkson believes it’s only a matter of time before electric cars become more mainstream. “There’s no question that there’s a supernova thing going on,” he said. “Legislation which is driving market forces is causing the car industry to change. It is sort of burning more brightly, like a sun does before it dies. It’s burning more brightly than it ever has before, we’ve got 400 horsepower hot hatchbacks coming along, 1100 horsepower supercars."
It’s just nuts how exciting cars have become in the last year or so—I think in two or three years, large, large numbers of them will be electric and that’ll make them even faster actually because there’s an unbelievable amount of power from batteries, as Tesla is demonstrating.” He was less enthusiastic about autonomous cars, though, citing his recent experience where a self-driving car nearly killed him on a busy highway when the autonomous technology failed to respond to traffic. “If you could show me a robot that can make a sandwich then I might think we’re on the way to a driverless car but they haven’t yet and that’s a relatively simple thing,” he said.
“Negotiating a city ring road or getting from one side of Manhattan to the other when they haven’t even built a robot that can make a sandwich or climb a flight of stairs or open a door? We’re a long way off driverless cars—a long, long way off. Maybe 50 years from now? I won’t be alive—so it doesn’t bother me because I’ll never have one.”