Musk Calls Out NY Times Review of Tesla Model S; Says “Range in Cold a Fake” (Updated w/video)

5 years ago by Eric Loveday 31

Tesla Model S testing in the snow.

Tesla Model S testing in snow.

This story is spiraling out of control with nearly all major news outlets covering it from every angle imaginable.

At the heart of matter is that Tesla Motors refutes the accuracy and accounts of a Model S review published by… The New York Times.    The Times’ reviewer insists that the Model S doesn’t meet range claims in cold weather, but Tesla argues that the range in cold weather claim made by The Times is “a fake.”

Model S in snow.

Model S in snow.

Intrigued?

Here’s why Tesla needs to care about this scathing and, possibly even inaccurate review: Tesla’s stock prices fell the most in two months immediately after The Times published its Model S review.  Ouch!

On February 8, The Times published review by John M. Broder describing how the Model S failed to meet Tesla’s “under ideal conditions” range claim of 300 miles (the official EPA range rating is 265 miles).  Broder was driving the Model S in temps as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which Tesla openly admits is not fitting of its “ideal conditions” claim.

Leave it to the outspoken Tesla CEO Elon Musk to be the first to fire back.  Upon receiving word of The Times “fake” reviews. Musk responded by tweeting:

Tesla blog coming soon detailing what actually happened on Broder’s NYTimes “range test.”   Also lining up other journalists to do same drive.”

Musk tweets back.

Musk tweets back.

And his follow-up tweet:

“Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.”

Musk even told CNBC that the newspaper’s report on the Model S’ “range in cold” is a “fake.”

After The Times published the “review” a blog post by Broder appeared on NY Times site Wheels.

In the initial February 8 review, New York Times Broder claimed a Tesla Model S he drove from suburban Washington, D.C. to Connecticut did not meet claimed range expectations, which forced Broder to suffer sever range anxiety, frozen feet and white knuckles.  To conserve range, Broder claims to have driven below the speed limit and turned down the heat.  But even that didn’t work as Broder’s Model S had to ultimately be towed to a charging station.

New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy issued this statement in response to Musk’s “fake”claims:

“Was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue.”

Murphy added that Broder “followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel” and that “there was no unreported detour.”

Now, we’re not here to suggest that one side is right and the other is wrong, so we’re not going to dive into Broder’s claims.  But we’ve witnessed an 85-kWh (the same as the version tested by Broder) Tesla Model S cover way more (over 423 miles) than the “some 200 miles ” that Broder was attempting, but failed.  So, is this simply a case of your mileage will vary?  Or is Broder trying to hide something?

Tweet by Musk in response to NY Times review.

Tweet by Musk in response to NY Times review.

Ultimately, it’s up to us all to decide which version of this account is accurate, but as Musk tweeted:

“Tesla data logging is only turned on with explicit written permission from customers, but after Top Gear BS, we always keep it on for media.”

So, we’re thinking Tesla has some inside info on this one that will discredit Broder’s account.

Of course, we suggest you read the NY Times review and follow-up blog post on the Model S before deciding who’s in the right here.  Follow the first two links below for Broder’s account and reaction to driving the Model S.

We’ll update you on this developing story when Tesla releases its promised blog post, which will supposedly refute cold-weather range claims by the NY Times.

Update (video interview and partial transcript with Musk below): Tesla CEO speaks to Bloomberg West, and talks about the reporter’s trip between Tesla’s Supercharger stations, “He took an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan in heavy traffic, instead of going on the interstate to the next supercharger station.” Musk also points out excessive speeds on the trip.

 

 

Partial transcript of Bloomberg West interview with Elon Musk:

Musk on the New York Times story:

“I do not think this is a he said, she said situation. It is really black and white. The facts are the facts. He 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. If you do all those three things, which we were clear should not be done and obviously common sense suggests should not be done, then you will not be able to go as far. If you did not fill a gasoline car’s gas tank far enough, then went on a detour and ran out of gas, you should not be surprised if that occurs.”

“We will publish the actual logs on the car and it is crystal clear.”

On the data Tesla records:

“We are very sensitive to privacy, so these logs are only turned on with the explicit permission of the customer and a signature. For media drives we turn on logging, which tells us the position, speed, what someone is doing with the car in terms of charging. We had a bad experience in the past with a show called “top gear” where they pretended the car ran out of charge and pushed it home. We looked at the logs and found that it had 50 miles of range left and they were faking it. After that, we trust but verify. In this case, it seems like we have to do that again.”

“A bit of a longer drive would be no problem, but what you cannot do is combine all three things, which is not fully charge the car, go on an extended detour and drive really fast. You cannot do that in any car–whether it’s a gas or electric car–and expect to achieve the top range.”

“We have taken great pains to ensure that our car works very well in cold and many Model S and before that, Tesla Roadster customers, in extremely cold climates. In fact, our number one Tesla Roadster owner owns four cars in northern Norway where it is permanent midnight during the winter, incredibly cold, and he uses it as his daily driver. The car is designed to do very well in the cold, and we have an intelligent thermal control system that is able to take heat from the motor into the battery pack and in cold weather will actually close shutters in the front of the car to keep the car insulated. It is actually really good. We have taken great pains to ensure that the car works very well in the cold and that is why we are incensed by this ridiculous article.”

“We’re obviously still in the early days of the supercharger network. So, for example, in California where we have more supercharger stations, we have them roughly every 100-140 miles, whereas on the East Coast they are about every 200 miles right now. In a few months, they will be a similar density, there will be a super charger every hundred miles or so. It will be more convenient. That is why we were so explicit with this New York Times reporter that since we only have a small number of super chargers in the East Coast, it is important to stick to the instructions in the agreed upon plan and not deviate. In a few months when we have more supercharger stations, it will not be a problem, but you just can’t do it now.”

“We are seeing rapid improvements in technology. For example. our Tesla Roadster had a range of up to 250 miles for the Model S, even though it is a bigger car, it has a range of 300 miles. Ironically, a different reporter from The New York Times did a test drive several months ago, late last year, and was able to achieve over 300 miles on a single charge. It’s just weird…I guess it was a different situation, but nonetheless, if one New York Times writer is having trouble with 200 miles and the other is getting 300 miles, it just does not make sense. It seems that within the New York Times, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.”

On suing BBC’s “Top Gear” in 2008 and speaking out:

If we have been wronged and the facts are on our side, I believe in speaking out. It is not as if I do this all the time. Several thousand articles have been written about Tesla and I have only objected to a few of them. Certainly many of the articles have been critical, but I am not outspoken about the ones. The times I am outspoken is when it is a publication that has very wide coverage and where it appears to be credible. That is where we really need to correct the misimpression.”

via New York Times, New York Times Wheels Blog and Automotive News

 

 

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31 responses to "Musk Calls Out NY Times Review of Tesla Model S; Says “Range in Cold a Fake” (Updated w/video)"

  1. Bloggin says:

    NYTimes review is a fake. By now everyone knows a slam article against a popular EV will get them headlines/publicity everywhere. Same with Consumer Reports.

    Edmonds.com just tested the Tesla with the 85kWh battery and got 269EV miles. Tesla wins!

  2. srsf says:

    Wait a second? “Not here to say who’s right or who’s wrong?”” What?!?!

    Whatever happend to the facts people. You’d rather let lies propogate?

  3. cody says:

    The thing that bothers me about Elon Musk is that his argument back was very short on details. VERY! Why didn’t Elon just say “this guy averaged 10mph faster than he reports”, and that “he took a 12 mile detour that was not in the story.” Elon is definitely a smart guy, but he’s also a cocky SOB! His tweets confirm that. The article in question on the other hand is NOT short on details.. in fact its pretty much in depth. The only thing bothersome is that he didn’t plug it in overnight. That was stupid, and Tesla customer service should have advised him to do so. Or, Elon should have maybe mentioned THAT in his tweets.
    I will wait til more facts emerge, but until then, I stick with the side that has provided a very detailed story.

  4. Anon says:

    Cody: Sorry, but liars typically often go into extreme detail to sell their deceptions. Your argument is invalid. 😛

    1. cody says:

      So this is an elaborate series of lies to tie up the package just to take the wind out of Tesla’s sales? Perhaps. I’m not saying that the Times didn’t lie, I’m just saying based on facts available as of right now: Elon is a blowhard, batteries don’t do well @ 10 degrees, and a long distance with a known detour. We have no choice but to assume Elon is “forming his story.”
      How hard is it to gather 2 damning pieces of evidence to discredit the Times?
      Anon, if that’s really your name, have you ever been in a court of law? Rarely does someone get convicted for vague assumptions blurted by some attorney.
      “His story is a fake!”
      “He detoured a long way!”

      yep, those are cold hard facts for ya! lol

      1. Anon says:

        Cody: Do you know anything about the Model S? If you plug it in, the pack stays warm in cold weather… Tesla spent a great deal of time designing and testing in sub-zero climates. You might want to read this:

        After Cold Weather Testing, Tesla Brings Model S to Oslo:
        http://www.ibtimes.com/after-cold-weather-testing-tesla-brings-model-s-oslo-video-436206

        Cody: Do you also know anything about the Model S’s ability to log everything that goes on in the car when it’s being reviewed by a member of the media? Tesla learned from their experience with the Top Gear people. Elon has the logs from the vehicle (transmitted wirelessly while driving), and they will be published.

        Please take your uninformed opinions / drama elsewhere.

        1. cody says:

          I know the pack stays warm when you plug it in.. I mentioned that plugging in is smart. lol
          my quote from above:
          “The only thing bothersome is that he didn’t plug it in overnight. That was stupid, and Tesla customer service should have advised him to do so.”
          Also, I know that the car logs info… that is why I already said:
          “How hard is it to gather 2 damning pieces of evidence to discredit the Times?” …. because I know the car logs all the info.

          For the record: I love EV’s, E-REV’s and alternate forms of transport. I am a regular on this site.

      2. Brian says:

        “take the wind out of Tesla’s sales”

        I see typos and improper grammar online all the time, but this one takes the cake. Please tell me you intended that to be a pun…

        1. cody says:

          LOL yes I did!!! Thanks for catching that!!
          🙂
          You know the one I see all the time that bothers me:
          “My breaks are ……… blah blah blah!!”
          Why do so many people use the wrong word!?!

  5. taser54 says:

    Well, Elon better back things up with details.

    1. Anon says:

      Tesla Motor’s has vehicle logs for the entire trip the reporter took… That’s how they know the reporter took an additional 12 mile detour, didn’t charge fully, and drove faster than the speed limit, etc.

      1. taser54 says:

        Logs haven’t been released, therefore it’s only a bald assertion from Musk. Also, no explanation has been given how the Model S, parked overnight can go from 92 miles to 16 miles of range left.

        NYT posted their details, it should be very easy for Tesla to post their details-not just talk about having them.

        1. cody says:

          Thank you taser for seeing that it’s prudent to be skeptical of the skeptic when he provides no actual argument.
          for the record: I think Elon will come out with details and this will most likely implicate the Times…. but until then….. we wait with a skeptical eye.

          1. taser54 says:

            Heck I’m skeptical of myself. But when a person chooses to use harsh words about the veracity of another, that person has to back it up.

  6. BlindGuy says:

    IMHO, the Model S is still the best BEV hands down. If someone wants to do a fair, several day test drive; they should learn the basics about BEVs. Plugging-in overnight in freezing weather is essential to optimize the battery. There are many very favorable reviews of the Model S, like Motor Trends Car of the Year review. I don’t blame Mr. Musk for being angry.

  7. MrEnergyCzar says:

    Anything for attention…. it is a tough stretch to try and make it from Delaware to CT on one charge though….

    MrEnergyCzar

  8. kdawg says:

    So why don’t they just try to repeat the trip?

    1. Josh says:

      I agree. My long winded version is below.

  9. Open-Mind says:

    Everyone knows that an EV at 10F is less efficient than an EV at 70F, right? Last time I checked, that was common knowledge to most anyone paying attention.

    I wonder if there could be some politics behind this. For example…

    Tesla markets their cars mainly based on performance & quality while pretty much ignoring the left’s green agenda. General Motors (success story of the left) currently has nothing that can compete with Tesla’s products. Tesla’s target market is pretty much the wealthy that the left say “do not pay their fair share” of taxes . Surprise … now Tesla is being attacked by a very left-leaning newspaper.

    Conspiracy theories are fun. 😉

  10. Soul says:

    A guy in Canada traveled with one charge around 170 miles, 10 mlies left at destination. But the car traveld at average speed of 70mph, with cabin temps at 75°F full A/C and heating in a snow storm at outside temps in the mid 20’s! Much worst condition, same result… something is wrong.

  11. Dave C says:

    See the articles on The Verge, TNW & the interview on Bloomberg. Right now, I’d put my money on Musk being the one telling the truth.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, I just added the interview with Bloomberg clip to the story!

  12. Levi says:

    Author’s Motivation

    1. Time Tesla’s Quarterly earnings report & spoil the party. (Short strategy)!
    They r looking 4 entry points while playing the stock. (Shorts r being Crushed!! )
    2. Tesla has no competition in the automotive world (Innovation & Technology)
    Even million $$ cars, Ferrari’s, Bentley’s, Buggati etc… can’t be updated or upgraded
    Like Model S. You have to go & buy a new one EVERY TIME new features come out.
    No way this steam locomotives compete with this IPHONE!!!!
    I’M SMELLING BIG AUTO PULLING DOWN TESLA especially exotic & import (niche manufacturer
    Coz Tesla is already eating there Lunch.
    3. Tesla has many enemies Boeing, Fisker,….. BIG OIL….they r like (how can this small company defy
    All odds when everyone has Folded??)

  13. tonyspin says:

    The real story here is the New York Times itself. There was a time, not too long ago, that the Times was regarded as the pinnacle of journalistic integrity. It seems lately, with all the scandals, they have fallen to the same level as the Star.

    1. Open-Mind says:

      The NYT was recently the pinnacle of journalistic integrity? Oh Vey.

      The NYT has been leaning left longer than most people have been alive. So very easy to prove. For example, the NYT has not endorsed a republican president since Eisenhower in 1956. Only democrats since then.

  14. GeorgeS says:

    Actually this is kind of odd for the NYT. In general they are usually quite left leaning and not big oil oriented. I fault both sides after reading the NYT article. Running this route at 10 degrees F with no overnight battery conditioning AND having it be a stretch between fast chargers is poor planning on the authors part AND on Teslas part.

  15. Jon B says:

    “Here’s why Tesla needs to care about this scathing and, possibly even inaccurate review: Tesla’s stock prices fell the most in two months immediately after The Times published its Model S review. Ouch!”

    So the stock is at $38.30 +/- this morning (Tuesday, 2/12/2013) . So how exactly did this story hurt their stock price?

    1. Eric Loveday says:

      @Jon B.

      The shares, which had gained 23 percent in the 12 months through Feb. 8 (the date of the NY Times review), closed Monday at $38.42, down 82 cents, or 2 percent. The shares slid as much as 4.4 percent during trading on Monday, the biggest intraday drop since Dec. 13.

      1. Jon B says:

        @Eric
        Thanks Eric. As a share holder I wouldn’t be at all concerned about the article’s long term affects on Tesla’s stock price. I just find it amusing how journalist can jump on this story and worry about a slight dip in stock price because of one person’s opinion. If that’s all they can mustard up…I think Tesla is doing OK.

  16. Josh says:

    I hate to go as far as to say, the NYT writer was motivated and staged the failure ala Top Gear, but at a minimum he clearly did not know how to use the vehicle. At best his expectations were not met, due to his own mistakes, and he sensationalized the story to make headlines (and succeeded).

    Either he did absolutely no research, got no advice from Tesla (Musk claims otherwise), or he ignored the given advice. It is clear from his own article that he did a standard charge (80%) as opposed to a range charge (100%). Not plugging in while at a house overnight, big EV rookie mistake. Not Google Map searching for an RV park in Connecticut, another mistake ( I am sure they exist).

    Musk claims he compounded these mistakes with excessive speed and an unplanned detour (presumably of longer distance). Tesla will produce the vehicle logs and I assume NYT will respond with their explanation. I wonder if they have his mid-trip calls to TM recorded also.

    The best resolution would be to have the same writer repeat the trip using EV best practices, but I really doubt Elon will give him a car again, as he tends to hold a grudge.

    The only interesting park of the article was the issue with releasing the parking brake with a dead battery. Tesla must have some proper instructions for this, or should come up with a proper solution.

  17. Bill Howland says:

    Well, as a happy owner of a Roadster and a
    Volt (both 2011) I have to say EV manufacturers exaggerate somewhat… In their defense they do this to increase interest in their vehicles.

    You see this in little things in the brouchure’s, for instance in the volt’s case, no mention of the several bugs, plus telling lies about what the car really was (that was 2011, they’ve stopped doint that now).

    In Tesla’s case, in the brouchures some info like inferior mileage with better tires, is hidden in the fine print. Other things like overstating charger size (I’d wager very few of us have a full 250 volts in our garage under either 40 or 80 amp loads Measured at the CAR.).

    They initially said 300 miles no problem! Then, when that obviously couldn’t be done, they said 300 at a constant 55 with nothing else on.

    I tire of this kind of advertising since my Kia Amante (Lincoln Continental look alike) got 17 mpg normally, but they COULD have advertised it at 37 mpg since thats what it got at a constant 32 miles per hour.

    I fully understand why Musk Stuttered and was no doubt sweating during the BloombergWest interview.. When you overstate the case, reporters can come by to make you look, well, worse than you really are, since there is something there to sell newspapers. Then his stock price tanks as a resutl.

    Can he get readers to in general, dismiss the story?

    That’s the gamble he’s taking.