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Tesla Motors loses legal challenge over BBC's Roadster review

LONDON (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc lost a legal challenge in Britain on Tuesday against BBC television's Top Gear motoring program, which had questioned the range claimed by the manufacturer for its electric Roadster sports car.

California-based Tesla was seeking to overturn an earlier dismissal of its claim for libel and damages against the show, arguing it had lost sales in Britain as a result of the report.

In a December 2008 program, Top Gear said the two-seat Roadster fell short of its advertised range on a single charge.

Tesla argued the comments were defamatory because it had "intentionally or recklessly grossly misled potential purchasers."

Appeal Court Judge Martin Moore-Bick disagreed, saying the comments did not libel Tesla.

He said viewers would recognize that Top Gear's high-speed track testing was quite different to a normal driving style.

"It would be obvious to a reasonable viewer ... that the range derived from track testing was not in any meaningful sense the car's 'true range'," he said.

He also dismissed Tesla's claim for lost sales, saying it was "quite unrealistic" to argue that its failure to sell an additional 200 vehicles in the UK was entirely due to the show's unfavourable review.

Tesla did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the decision.

The ruling came after Tesla said it had lost about $100 million in sales and canceled orders due a story in the New York Times about a different vehicle model.

Tesla said in February it expects to record its first profit in the first quarter of 2013, after posting a net loss of $89.9 million in the fourth quarter.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Writing by Tim Castle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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