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NY Times Poo-Poos Tesla Model S – Musk Strikes Back With Fact

Elon Musk picture via BusinessWeek
Elon Musk (picture via BusinessWeek)

It’s one thing to take a car for a test drive and give it a review, but another thing entirely to gloss over your testing procedure and then trash the car in the review. Tesla Model S has a data-logging feature that is only turned on explicitly at the driver’s request, but ever since Top Gear trashed a Model S and didn’t fess up to it, every reviewer has this feature turned on now, whether they ask for it or not.

When Top Gear tested and reviewed the Model S, they actually broke the car, then claimed that the fault was Tesla’s. Top Gear’s testing didn’t follow what they said they did, and so the missing data speaks the truth, as supplied by the data logs extracted from the vehicles after testing. Tesla also sued BBC / Top Gear for libel in that instance.

John Broder of the New York Times recently tested and reviewed a new Tesla Model S, and was immediately dismayed by the apparent lack of range that the Model S 85kWh battery demonstrated in cold weather. Driving in the New York / New Jersey / Connecticut area, Broder said,

After a short break in Manhattan, the range readout said 79 miles; the Milford charging station was 73 miles away. About 20 miles from Milford, less than 10 miles of range remained. I called Tesla again, and Ted Merendino, a product planner, told me that even when the display reached zero there would still be a few miles of cushion.” At that point, the car informed me it was shutting off the heater, and it ordered me, in vivid red letters, to “Recharge Now.”

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? A review like this certainly hurts, and if it’s true, then all the worse for Tesla Motors. On the other hand, what if the data was fudged and the test conditions weren’t properly documented? Well, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors plans on striking back with the facts, such as how much Mr. Broder actually charged the Model S, how far he actually drove.

Mr. Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg West,

“I do not think this is a he said, she said situation. It is really black and white. The facts are the facts. Mr. Broder of the New York Times did not charge the car to full capacity, not even close. He then took an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan, through heavy traffic, instead of going on the interstate to the charging station. He also exceeded the speed limit quite substantially, which decreased his range.” [italics mine]

Mr. Musk plans on releasing the data logs from the Tesla Model S test drive in question, to prove his claims. Again, reporting actual data is fine, and if the data points to a fault, that is also fine, but to make it up on the fly, or omit important details, then I’m sure that any right-thinking person will have a serious problem with that. We’re waiting patiently for the data logs to see once and for all what actually happened.

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  1. The suit was thrown out on the technicality that Top Gear is an “entertainment” program (and presumably not beholden to that pesky little thing called The Truth). Despite the legal parsing, Top Gear did a slimy thing in scripting a faked Tesla Roadster breakdown (without telling the audience it was fake). …A Tesla official even saw the script — too late to do anything — that called for the staged breakdown. If that ain’t dishonest, I don’t know what is.


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