The New York Times auto critic who had a Tesla Model S stall during a test drive took imprecise notes that left him open to valid criticism, the paper’s public editor wrote.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk -- who said reporter John Broder “changed the facts” when they didn’t suit his opinion of EVs -- then responded on Twitter afterwards to say his faith in the Times was “restored.”
While Musk thought Broder’s story was faked, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Sunday that she doesn’t believe he went into the 200-mile test drive hoping for something bad to happen, and that it was done in “good faith.”
Broder’s test drive between two new Tesla superchargers in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn., has been scrutinized since the story was published this month as Tesla prepares to release its latest quarterly earnings report on Wednesday.
Broder has defended himself, saying Tesla didn’t “provide detailed instructions on maximizing the driving range, the impact of cold weather on battery strength or how to get the most out of the Superchargers or the publicly available lower-power charging ports along the route.”
Musk questioned Broder’s motives with a series of graphs detailing speed, battery charge and distance on the trip to defend the Model S.
“We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates,” Musk wrote in a blog last week.
Broder’s issues, Sullivan said, sprung from poor judgment that was “instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending,” and his “casual” notes that were no match for Tesla’s digitally recorded driving logs, which Musk used in the “most damaging” and “sometimes quite misleading” ways possible.
Sullivan said she spoke with Broder, Musk, two key Tesla employees, other Times journalists, the tow truck driver who picked up the Model S and a Tesla owner in California, among others.
She said she was aware of other successful test drives in recent days by other owners and media organizations done to illustrate that the charging stations work, but that they were missing an integral element: one of the coldest days of the year.
Sullivan said plenty of argument fodder remains.
“I could recite chapter and verse of the test drive, the decisions made along the way, the cabin temperature of the car, the cruise control setting and so on. I don’t think that’s useful here,” she wrote.
“People will go on contesting these points -- and insisting that they know what they prove -- and that’s understandable. In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable.”