NYT reporter responds to Tesla

About three hours into the trip, I placed the first of about a dozen calls to Tesla personnel expressing concern about the car’s declining range and asking how to reach the Supercharger station in Milford, Conn. I was given battery-conservation advice at that time (turn off the cruise control; alternately slow down and speed up to take advantage of regenerative braking) that was later contradicted by other Tesla personnel. I was on the phone with a Tesla engineer in California when I arrived, with zero miles showing on the range meter, at the Milford Supercharger.

An interesting counterpoint to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk’s blog post yesterday. Musk suggests that Broder had an agenda, Broder offers reasonable explanations for how and why he drove the car as he did, and suggests that everything he did was either with Tesla’s understanding or at their behest.

Any way you slice it, no one is walking away from this unscathed. The Times looks like it had an agenda and Tesla’s CEO looks petulant and vindictive.

  • zimmermann

    Really? I’m seeing these types of comments a lot from tech bloggers today – the idea that we shouldn’t trust Elon Musk because he used the wrong “tone” or was “petulant”. I think his blog post was perfectly reasonable considering the evidence they had and the hit-piece the NYT wrote.

    How is this different from when Steve Jobs held a press conference over the “antenna-gate” nonsense? A lot of tech bloggers at the time also dismissed him and his evidence because they didn’t like his tone and attitude.

    • JohnDoey

      You are right. iPhone 4 had fewer returns and fewer antenna-related support calls than 3GS, and yet even now, Antennagate is still treated as a real thing. And even though the death grip worked on all phones at the time, Apple was the only one who fixed it (in 4S and 5, which have dual antennas they switch between.) Yet no other phone maker was criticized for not taking similar action.

      The other Jobs moment that comes to mind is when he said “PC people are confused because their world is ending.” That is how “car people” feel about gas cars going away, which they very clearly are over the next 10 years. These guys have not realized that the growl of a V8 will be replaced by new romantic notions like immediate acceleration and asthma-free little girls.

      So this NYT piece is very much a Gizmodo.

      • zimmermann

        I think it’s more than that. The majority of people I’ve seen defending NYT are other journalists. Seems like there’s this unspoken rule among them that Tesla have broken:

        1) They secretly recorded data on the car

        2) They rebutted the negative review

        I get the feeling the reason all the tech bloggers are so pissed and think Musk’s blog post was so egregious is due to point 2. It’s okay for a news publication to criticise a company, but it’s absolutely unforgivable for a company to cirticise a review from a news publication.

        Now they’re all just trying to mock and discredit Tesla for daring to speak up against an inaccurate review – they’re worried if one company does it, so will others.

        • Maxi

          1→ I don’t think the secretly recorded the data. They may not have stated it on the very first side of the contract but I bet, it was in the fine print. 2→ They did more than rebut the review. They accused the Journalist of unethical behavior and malicious intent. All those “mistakes” the Journalist made can be attributed to honest mistakes and if there were no data, it would have been hard to reconstruct whether the Journalist failed or the car. But the data exists and it shows that the Journalist was either completely incompetent or malicious…

          The NYT has two options: either admit that the article was unfair OR go to court in which it is the word of the journalist against data from the car…. that is IMHO why Musk used such harsh language: if the NYT does nothing, they admit that the artice is a lie…

    • Antenna gate is one of the biggest hit-piecess of all time. People STILL believes that the antenna does not work on iPhone. The truth was/is that ALL phones have antenna problems if the fingers are placed over the antenna. But only Apple was targeted since no other phone company back then would create media sensation.

      Journalists are after creating exposure. Creating false rumour about Apple/Tesla is two great ways.

      Both Steve and Elon have passion about their products. They believe that they are changing the world. Journalists hate that. They want to prove that Apple/Tesla are nothing.

      (sorry about my English. Not my native language)

  • gjgustav

    The bottom line I take away from this: I’m going to have to wait an hour to fill up my car. Even longer if there are cars ahead of me. I’ve never had to wait more than five minutes at a gas station. Let’s hope they can get faster charge times in the future.

    • kibbles

      this does appear true, for now. but if thats the change of lifestyle our world requires, then so be it…. beats a horse.

      • gjgustav

        There are other ways. Like a battery swap system. Car owner never “owns” the batteries. Pull in, swap your batteries, and go. Charging station can charge a depreciation fee so they can replenish when batteries can no longer take a minimum accepted charge.

    • JohnDoey

      If there was a gas station with free gas but it took an hour to get in and out, it would be the most popular gas station in town. Tesla is essentially paying you $75 per hour to charge your car, because that is what a tank of gas costs.

      Bottom line: millions of people are killed by gas car exhaust every year. Your lungs have a layer of soot and other crap in them that may give you cancer.

      • GasMan

        Bullshit. Citation needed.

      • gjgustav

        The free charges aren’t going to last forever. It’s a nice promotion now to entice people to buy the cars. When electric cars go mainstream, you won’t be getting free charges – it just isn’t economically viable. And if they’re “free” it means you’re paying extra for them in the price of the car. Nothing is free.

        I don’t see where I or anyone claimed car exhaust is harmless. This discussion isn’t about that.

  • Buckeyestar

    I think I have to side with Tesla on this. What idiot would only hook up for 32 miles worth of charge when he needs to go 61 miles and then bitch about running out before he gets there?

    • kibbles

      his claim is the tesla people told him on the phone that the reading was inacurrate and it would restore miles once on the road.

      • JohnDoey

        Why is he even talking to Tesla? He can’t drive? He can’t navigate through dozens of supercharger stations along a fairly short route? And who knows what BS he gave Tesla over the phone if he is irrationally skipping stations and even when he does stop, skipping out without filling up?

    • Shaun

      Did you even read the counterpoints? Tesla told him to drive with 32 miles worth of charge to go 61 miles. You’re calling him an idiot for doing what the company who’s car he was driving told him to do?

      • Buckeyestar

        There is such a things common sense. Apparently not so common.

        • Shaun

          The Milgram experiment says otherwise.

        • Steven Fisher

          Yeah. One of the things common sense teaches you is that when you’re driving someone else’s $100,000 car you do what they @#$%ing tell you to do.

      • JohnDoey

        That is not true. You are not even making sense. He had no shortage of supercharger stations, look at the map of them in Elon Musk’s post. Yet he stopped at only 2 and he did not fill up all the way. There is no need for him to have called Tesla at all. As far as energy, the superchargers all along his route made the Teska work exactly like a gas car. If you are on 10–20% of a tank/charge, you pull into the next station and fill ’er up. What possible excuse can you make for him not doing that? The car is supercharged to 90% in the amount of time it takes to get a snack and use the restroom. He could have complained that charging takes longer than filling with gas, but cannot complain that he could not charge. And supercharging is free.

        • Doug

          Actually the map you’re referring to shows all public charging stations. The point of this test was to try to get by with only the Tesla-built supercharging stations, which deliver charge much faster than standard ones and of which there are at present only two of along this route.

  • MacsenMcBain

    With all due respect, Peter, what would be the NYT’s “agenda”? I find it difficult to believe that anti-electric-car or anti-“green” opinions fit into the worldview of any of their reporters.

    • you should read the series of articles leading up to this rebuttal. The reporter assigned to the article had blasted electric cars in previously published work.

    • JohnDoey

      This reporter is on record as being against electric cars. Read his previous pieces.

      Your naïveté is amazing. Don’t “find things hard to believe,” that is irrational. Instead, read something and draw a conclusion from the evidence.

      If you read a John C. Dvorak article that trashes the Mac do you find it hard to believe he had an anti-Mac bias? Think of how much incredibly stupid and ignorant stuff has been written about the Mac. Did it all come from unbiased reporting?

      I have friends who are reporters for major newspapers. Good people, great drinkers, but it is horrifying to talk reporting with them because it shatters all the myths. Truth is, reporters learn in journalism school how to write only about 10 or 15 template stories, and then whatever they report on, they first figure out which of those 10 or 15 templates to use, and they write those same stories again and again. Here, this reporter wrote the traditionalist-takes-down-an-innovator, a very sellable story.

  • JohnDoey

    I looked at the logs yesterday. The NYT reporter lied, straight up.

    Also Tesla showed a map of charging stations on the guy’s route that had so many stations that the station icons overlapped. Why does he need to keep calling Tesla?

    Imagine an iPhone review where the guy did not charge the device overnight (the one thing iPhone asks you to do, just like feeding a pet) and then complained the iPhone only lasted for 3 days use.

    I disagree that Elon Musk looks petulant and vindictive. His post was gracious and he stressed that the vast majority of reporters are honest.

    The reporter here did not realize the car was capturing data. He drove right past superchargers when he was low on energy, he deviated from the route he described, he exceeded the speed limit yet said he drove well under it. It goes on and on.

    Me, I hate Windows PC’s because I have seen too many users abused by them as they attempt to do basic tasks. I’ve seen users turned off from computing, scared away. If Dell sent me a notebook to review, on a bad day I might just trash the thing, saying it crashed 3 times and then went down with a virus, even before I booted the thing up. But if Michael Dell revealed the review machine had a LoJack in it that showed the machine never crashed, never got a virus, and in fact I put the thing underwater, my bias and dishonesty would be revealed, just like this anti- electric car reporter. This is a classic scenario, a classic trap for a reporter to fall into.

    We pretend there are no crooked reporters or cops, but out of every 100 people there is always at least 1 bad apple. You never get 100% of anything. We should expect at least 1 out of every 100 articles we read to be totally wrong. Even if all 100 are in NYT. Resisting that basic premise is irrational and maybe even insane. Nothing in the world is 100%. Not ever. So when an article is debunked, we should expect that. We should expect to reverse at least 1% of all articles we read. We should expect that at least 1% of arrests are the result of bad policing. It’s basic maturity to accept that fact. So why are so many people resistant to the idea that this article was a POS?

    • Adam

      The pins on the map are not all Supercharger stations. In fact, there are only two Supercharger stations on the entire east coast. The point of the NYT article was to document the experience of making a cross-country trip specifically using the Supercharger network. What sense would it have made to recharge at non-Supercharger stations?

  • This rebuttal is nothing but the journalist’s continued assertions at things that do not make sense when you look at the data from the car.

    “According to my notes, I plugged into the Milford Supercharger at 5:45 p.m. and disconnected at 6:43 p.m. The range reading was 185 miles.”

    Clearly his notes are better than the car saying that it was only charged for 47minutes.

    ” I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires.”

    I recall setting it to 54mph but yet the car shows that I was doing a consistent 60mph. I have no real response for that except that the size and type of wheels must have caused a discrepancy between the speed that the engine was reporting to the data logs and my dashboard.

    And at the end the Journalist holds onto the fact that Musk apologized to the Journalist before ever looking into the details of what occurred during the test drive. Musk’s apology was the type of apology you get from a restaurant manager that comes over and says “I’m sorry about the screw up, how about a free desert?”

  • JDSoCal

    “Petulant and vindictive” for pointing out a biased and inaccurate review of his product? From the douchebag who tells anyone who disagrees with him to fuck off.

  • Crabbit_git

    I don’t give a monkey’s testicle what the New York Times nor what Tesla Motors say.

    What is the real world evidence?

    Its fine for Tesla to say 1 Billion miles on a single charge if driven under specific conditions. Its also fine for NYT to say they did not achieve that.

    What is the car achieving in the real world?

  • It’s the normal human behaviour: neither one will step down from his claims, they will both insist their story is right until it become irrelevant. Our culture doesn’t tolerate failure, thus neither one can agree to a compromise, which would – I’m sure of it – show that they both have some valid points and both could have done better. But That won’t happen, as we would want the blame to fall on one person so that the other can celebrate victory standing on top of the other, just like back in the days knights celebrated victories by showing off the severed heads of the defeated…