The New York Times vs. the Tesla Motors Model S electric car - Macleans.ca

The New York Times vs. the Tesla Motors Model S electric car

CEO Elon Musk accuses journalist of making up data in poor review

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The Tesla Model S. (teslamotors.com)

Electric cars aren’t quite ready for the highway, particularly in cold-weather conditions. At least that’s what The New York Times energy and environment reporter John M. Broder found out when he tried to take the much-hyped Tesla Model S out for a long-distance drive in order to review it for the newspaper.

Despite being in constant contact with Tesla spokespeople and engineers over his two-day journey along a portion of Interstate 95, Broder found that the car’s projected distance did not match the actual distance. In his words: “I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating.” He hypothesized that the unusually cold weather could have zapped some of the car’s battery life.

After many phone calls to Tesla, and running out of charge on the side of the road near Branford, Conn., Broder finally made it to New York City. The resulting review published in The New York Times Sunday issue was not favourable to the Tesla Model S.

In most cases, a company expects some bad reviews will be mixed in with the good reviews and it moves on. This wasn’t the case for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who didn’t like what he read. “It probably [would] have been the end of the tale, but for Musk’s unexpectedly sharp reaction,” writes Time technology reporter Matt Peckham.

Enter Musk, who replied with this tweet, three days after the Times published its review.

Having a platform readily available, Broder then responded to Musk’s response with a second New York Times story the next day. “My account was not a fake,” he writes. “It happened just the way I described it.”

And, one day later, on Wednesday evening, Musk used the Tesla company blog to question Broder’s data in detail, writing: “In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.”

And, again, Broder responded Thursday to Musk, breaking down his criticisms in a point-by-point response published in The New York Times Wheels section. “His broadest charge is that I consciously set out to sabotage the test. That is not so,” writes Broder in his second response to Musk and his third story about the Tesla Model S.

Over to Musk now, who was back on Twitter on Friday again, taking on Broder.

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