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Tesla takes New York Times to task for damning Model S review

Posted Feb 14th 2013 10:45AM

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The social media tête-à-tête between the New York Times and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, stemming from a defamatory review by John Broder of the Model S and Tesla's new "Supercharger" network on the East Coast, is heating up in a major way. Just yesterday we summarized the Twitter spat, and now Musk has expanded upon the data recorded during Broder's test drive – adding major credence to the criticism of the NYT writer.

The smoking gun in this case is the information that was captured by the data recorder in Broder's loaned Model S. The data recording function is one that in only activated for consumers when permission has been expressly granted, says Musk, but is always turned on in the case of media vehicles. Thusly equipped, Broder's vehicle was keeping track of speed, charging data, map data and more, presumably without the writers foreknowledge.

The evidence recorded by the in-car systems happens to contravene Broder's most damning claims of the Tesla, says Musk in his article titled A Most Peculiar Test Drive. First, and perhaps most shockingly, the Model S "State of Charge" log shows that Broder's test car "never ran out of energy at any time." Broder's reporting indicated that the car ran completely out of juice at one point and had to be evacuated on a flatbed truck. The data log also points out that the trip was made at speeds ranging from 105 to 130 km/h (65 to 81 miles per hour), where the writer claimed to have set the cruise control at 87 km/h (54 mph), with periods of driving as slowly as 72 km/h (45 mph).

Musk's piece also indicates that Broder – who was ostensibly driving to test the charging network – didn't tell the truth about how long he charged his Model S. At one stop he specifically writes that he charged the car for 58 minutes on his second stop, where the log indicates that he was on the Supercharger for just 47 minutes. Tesla claims that the writer charged his car to 90 per cent of capacity on his first stop, 72 per cent on his second and just 28 percent on his third – all despite his concerns over just barely having enough energy to complete the respective legs of his trip.

Taken at face value, Tesla's data seems compelling to say the least. With that said, we're no more in a position to attest to the veracity of the logged data, than we are the claims of Mr. Broder. At the very least it will be fascinating to see what the NYT does to respond, if anything at all, to this rather serious, high-profile assault on its credibility.

For it's part, Tesla is taking Elon's article as the final word on the matter. A company spokesperson released this statement, just this morning: "Please note, no one from Tesla – including Elon – will be providing additional comment on this topic moving forward as we feel the blog speaks for itself. At this time, this post is the company's final statement on the issue."
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