By Stefano Ambrogi
LONDON (Reuters) - American electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc said on Wednesday it is suing the BBC's hit motoring show Top Gear for allegedly faking a race between its electric sports car and a petrol-driven Lotus Elise.
The firm said it issued a writ in London's High Court on Tuesday claiming defamation and malicious falsehood over a show, aired two years ago, that supposedly tested its Roadster Sport.
It is the latest row to engulf the often controversial program whose presenters were at the center of a diplomatic spat last month for making disparaging remarks about Mexico.
Tesla said it was taking action against the British broadcaster for what it calls "lies and misinformation about the Roadster's performance, behavior and reliability."
The drag race between the Lotus and the Tesla -- the world's fastest electric car with a top speed of 125mph -- appeared to show the car slowing down and running out of charge. It is later seen being pushed into a garage.
In the episode, presenter Jeremy Clarkson says: "It's just a shame that in the real world it doesn't seem to work."
The company says the car's ability was grossly misrepresented and alleges the scenes were rigged to fit a pre-written script that one of its employees had seen.
In the writ, Tesla challenges the broadcaster over what it says was a string of inaccuracies, such as saying the car's range was 55 miles instead of 211.
The company alleges the show "intentionally and/or recklessly, grossly misled potential purchasers of Roadsters."
The BBC said in a statement it had received notification of proceedings relating to the episode, adding that it "stands by the program and will be vigorously defending this claim."
Tesla said it had taken action after the episode was featured on repeats broadcast around the world and was included in a DVD, despite the inaccuracies having been flagged up.
In February, the broadcaster apologized to Mexico's ambassador in London after Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond jokingly described Mexicans as lazy and feckless.
(Editing by David Hulmes)