February 18, 2013 - The internet has been on fire discussing the back and forth battle between New York Times writer John M. Broder and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk. It all started when Broder took a Tesla Model S on a road trip on the east coast to review the vehicle and also Tesla’s new east coast charging stations. Broder had multiple issues with the car’s performance in cold weather, specifically charging the battery and battery life. During this test drive the S Model ran out of power and ended up having to get towed. The negative review, titled Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway ended up on the cover of the New York Times Auto section.
Musk fired back on Tesla’s official blog with A Most Peculiar Test Drive. Claiming Broder had not operated and charged the car correctly. Stating he at times went against Tesla recommendations which led to the car losing all of its battery power. Musk branded Broder as anti-electric car, and accused him of driving around a parking lot trying to kill the cars battery so it would die and he could give it a bad review. Musk provided screenshots of the vehicle’s log as proof that what Broder wrote was not what actually happened with the car.
With the screenshots Musk shows that the cars actually speed and the cabin temperature were not set to what Broder wrote. In other screenshots Musk shows how much the batteries were charged at each charging station. After Musk’s blog post with solid drive logs, it seemed that a newspaper writer looking for a good story or perhaps even an anti-electric car influencer had been revealed.
Not so fast! Broder then replied with a response in the New York Times titled, That Tesla Data: What It Says and What It Doesn’t. In this piece Broder answers everyone of Musk’s questions. He also lists all the names of the representatives he spoke to while he was on the road trip at Tesla. He called several times for help with issues he ran into. He claims to have followed their directions and still the car lost all power and had to be put on the back of a flatbed. He even claims that Elon Musk called him after the failed test drive to apologize and admitted that more charging stations needed to be added in the east coast for the car to make that journey.
I am not sure whom to believe, the reporter or the CEO. I do know one thing. Musk made a mistake by writing that blog response to Broder’s New York Times column. I’m sure millions of more eyeballs read Broder’s original piece because of Musk’s response. This could have just been one bad review for a car that has nothing but good reviews but now it is something more. His response has given Broder’s review viral status. It has also made Musk look like a little bit of a whiner. You don’t see too many elite CEOs complain when one of their products gets a bad review by a newspaper.