There’s no question that Elon Musk is a smart guy. He founded SpaceX and co-founded both PayPal and the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors. We think we might have pinpointed where he went wrong, though.
We don’t count on the New York Times to be fair, at least when it comes to political coverage, but you’d think the Times would want to make an electric car look as good as possible. Today, though, Musk is calling out writer John Broder’s account of his trip in a Tesla Model S sedan with a word no journalist wants to hear: fake. In his article titled, “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway,” Broder wrote about his “creeping range anxiety” as he watched the Tesla’s estimated mileage plummet in a snap of cold weather. Musk says that’s fiction, and he has logs to prove it.
Not many people have driven a Tesla; even green celebs like Mark Ruffalo found themselves on a long waiting list. Many who have driven one, however, offer their own anecdotes.
“Fake” is a strong accusation, and Broder’s detailed account of his road trip — part of which took place in a tow truck when the Tesla’s battery died — seems real enough. Musk says that Broder blatantly ignored the company’s instructions given over the phone.
Hmm, one of the Times’ leading environmental writers wanted the car to look bad? In any case, a lot of people are anxious to get on the highway and test that car. Plenty of journalists and bloggers jumped at Musk’s offer to take a chance with their own test drive.
Tesla chief technology officer J.B. Straubel told Broder, “It takes more planning than a typical gasoline car, no way around it.”
Just what did Broder write last spring? At the time, he said “the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”
The Times is standing by its story, issuing the following statement:
The Times’s February 10 article recounting a reporter’s test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was “fake” is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.