A scathing firsthand account of driving the Tesla Model S electric car in today’s New York Times prompted a fit of accusations from the company’s CEO Elon Musk (of PayPal fame) but not an apology from the paper. Reporter John Broder took the environmentally friendly ride for a road trip north from Washington, D.C., to test Tesla’s new East Coast charging stations, only to find the car’s estimated mile ranges fall short repeatedly. When Tesla’s stock started to fall after publication, Musk took to Twitter and made his point, even if his quibbles are off-base.
According to Border’s telling, Tesla’s “road trip problem” persists, leaving him without heat in the middle of winter and stuck driving just 54 miles on the highway. At one point, the car shut off entirely and had to be towed, turning a drive that should’ve taken less than an hour into a five-hour nightmare. “Hopefully you’ll give us a little slack in that we put in the East Coast stations just a month ago,” the company’s CTO told Broder, who did no such thing and instead chose to include the request in the slackless article.
“NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour,” Musk claimed in his own defense. (Tesla stock crept back up a bit after the posturing, but is down over 2 percent on the day.) “Am not against NYTimes in general,” he went on. “They’re usually fair & their own prev Tesla test drive got 300+ miles of range!”
In a statement, the Times stood by the article, calling it “completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.” But, in a way, that’s beside the point.
By claiming journalistic malfeasance to his 132,000 followers, Musk mitigated the damage the best way he could, short of making a better car. Whether or not the reporter misled — and he’s adamant he did not — the CEO was able to respond using his own huge, unfiltered platform, highlighting only the most supportive voices. “In the Internet age, the voice of the people can defeat even the most powerful publications!” Musk commented to a proud Model S owner. “[Very] glad it’s not 1913.” He should be.