Tesla releases car’s log data to counter negative review by NYT

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., talks about a review of the company's Model S electric sedan by the New York Times. Musk speaks with Emily Chang on Bloomberg West. (Source: Bloomberg) (Bloomberg)
February 14, 2013

Tesla has posted vehicle log data to its company blog that it says show that a New York Times review unfairly portrayed the performance and the battery range of the company’s Model S luxury electric car.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said late Wednesday that data taken from the review car, including graphs on the car’s charge and estimated range, back up his assertions that the newspaper’s article misrepresented the facts when its reviewer took the electric car on a trip. Musk says that Tesla keeps data logs of reviewers’ trips.

The Feb. 8 review by John Broder recalled an East Coast road trip that had gone horribly awry — starting with anxiety about the car’s battery range and ending with the luxury sedan resting on a flatbed truck. The New York Times has adamantly defended the review, saying in statements that Tesla’s claims of inaccuracies are false. Broder posted point-by-point defense of his article on the Times’s Web site on Tuesday.

Eileen Murphy, spokeswoman for Times, said Thursday that the newspaper’s story was “fair and accurate.” and that the Times is reviewing Tesla’s specific challenges to the review and will issue a public response.

Among the points of contention between the newspaper and the car company:

Tesla says that Broder didn’t fully charge the vehicle at each station and didn’t follow instructions regarding the best speed and climate control settings and the ideal route for the planned trip.

Musk has also made much of an “unplanned detour” the reviewer made into Manhattan, a trip Broder said he informed Tesla about and did under the impression that the lower speeds and frequent braking necessary in city traffic would be better for the car’s range.

The graphs also dispute Broder’s account that he stayed well below the speed limit and kept the heat down despite cold outside temperatures.

The graphs, extensively footnoted by Tesla, appear to show that Broder never re-charged the car to full capacity. Broder said in his Tuesday piece that the car’s sensors indicated to him that charging was complete, or at least capable of powering the next leg of his journey.

“This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a ‘normal use,’ no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it,” Broder wrote. “Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop.”

Musk, however, made it clear that he believes the Times reviewer had an agenda in mind before he even took the trip, and he accused Broder of ignoring the truth to support his preconceived views.

“When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts,” Musk wrote.

This is the second time that Tesla has aggressively disputed a poor review. The car company sued the BBC for libel and malicious falsehood, saying that the British car show Top Gear purposely misrepresented its car in 2008. A British judge ruled against the claims last February, saying that they were not justified.

Related stories:

Tesla’s Elon Musk slams New York Times review

PHOTOS: Energy efficient cars

Opinion: The electric car mistake

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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