Tesla vs. the NY Times Follow Up

Tuesday I wrote about the public spat between Tesla’s co-founder Elon Musk and John Broder, a writer for the NY Times. Broder wrote a negative story about Tesla’s $100k electric sports car (the Model S) and Musk responded by accusing him of faking the events in the story. Musk claimed that data logged during the test drive proved Broder hadn’t been honest in his account.

Yesterday, Musk did publish a response on Tesla’s website including several graphs based on data taken during the test drive. It turns out that some of the claims Broder made are not true. Specifically, in his initial response to Musk he claims “I drove more than 100 miles below 55 on cruise control to conserve power.” Not so according to the logs which show a roughly 100 mile stretch driving an average of 60mph.

However, Musk is on shakier ground when he tries to rebut the claim that Broder cut heat to the cabin. He puts an arrow on this chart showing where this supposedly happened. Musk writes “At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.” Okay, maybe Broder was off by a few miles, but the chart does show Broder cut the heat to 70 degrees and then down to 65 degrees about 50 miles later. Broder apparently drove with the heater at 65 for around 50 miles.

There are other elements of the story which could cut either way. On Monday Musk claimed that Broder had made a “long detour” in Manhattan. In his post yesterday Musk drops the “long” part of this claim and reveals that the detour involved 0.6 miles spent driving around a parking lot at low speed. Musk insinuates that Broder was trying to get the car to shut down (it showed 0 miles of range remaining at the time) but he has no evidence that was Broder’s goal. Broder may have been allowing his brother–who he’d picked up at this point–to test drive the car for 5 minutes in a safe environment.

A critic of Musk’s statement published her analysis of the charts he provided. She concludes that “Elon is a bigger liar than John Broder of the New York
Times.” In general, she finds that Broder drove the Model S at a lower average speed, with a lower average cabin temperature than Musk claims.