Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Times Is ON IT

Elon Musk, CEO of the company that makes Tesla electric cars, has some complaints about a recent NYTimes test-drive of his company's flagship product. The review was severely negative, so that's only to be expected...but Musk and Tesla have the records of the car's actual performance, which paint a very damning picture for the Times and their reporter John Broder.

Here's one particular money quote:
When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said "0 miles remaining." Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.
Perhaps Broder will have an explanation for that period of extended parking-lot driving -- I'd love to hear about how very very hard it was to find a legal spot -- but it certainly doesn't look good.

Any car can be driven to the end of its fuel. It's pretty clear that's the only thing Broder has proven here -- and we have to wonder if the Times will stand behind yet another reporter guilty of making up the story first and then creating the facts to suit it.

Go read the whole thing -- there's charts and graphs and lots of actual, damning evidence. Even if you have no axe to grind in the electric-car battle -- and I certainly don't -- Schadenfreude alone makes this a lovely way to spend a few minutes.


Mike G. said...

That's one way to answer the "who watches the watchers" question - have to product reviewed log what the reviewer REALLY does :)

Johanna said...

There's already been a partial NY Times response here:

Andrew Wheeler said...

Johanna: I saw that -- though I note that it was posted when Musk was complaining via Tweets, and before the blog post. I don't believe the Times or Broder has responded to the proof that he deliberately ran the car down to zero charge to get that money shot on the flatbed.

Add that to the fact that Broder usually reports on "energy" -- meaning the oil & gas business -- and it doesn't look good at all.

Mike G. said...

Andrew, you're right, that was an earlier response from Tuesday, but there's a newer response now:

Johanna said...

Oh, I don't really care which one of them is right. It's just depressingly entertaining seeing companies have the kind of public internet battle I normally associate with competing fandoms.

Nathan H. said...

One of the main reasons I found the Times's response unconvincing is that the NYTimes employs a number of automobile reviewers, yet as Mr. Wheeler notes, this particular review was written by their fossil fuel specialist.

Now, fossil fuel specialists don't necessarily have anything to fear from electric cars; that electricity has to come from somewhere, and coal and natural gas are going to be a part of that for our lifetimes. But they wouldn't send a legislative analyst to review the newest midtown restaurant, would they? So what gives in this case?

Also, CNN ran a rather smug article a few days later saying they did the same trip as the Times dude, and had no problems whatsoever.

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