Tesla Motors Accuses Reuters of Poor Journalism in Reporting Model S Garage Fire
We sense this one’s going to grab a lot of headlines, similar to when the New York Times brodered a Tesla Model S.
This time, Tesla is taking aim at the “misleading article“ put forth by Reuters in which the news outlet is being accused by Tesla of simply trying to “find some way to put the words “fire” and “Tesla” in the same headline.”
As we pointed out in our initial coverage of the garage fire, several of the statements put forth by Reuters seemed questionable. Reuters’ use of “could,” “may” and “cause of the fire is unclear” are especially suspect to us.
Here’s a snippet of that Reuters‘ report, which we think highlights the shaky ground Reuters was trying to tiptoe on:
“A fire department in Southern California said a garage fire may have been caused by an overheated charging system in a Tesla Model S sedan.”
“…the Tesla-supplied charging system or the connection at the electricity panel on the wall of the garage of a single-family home could have caused the fire.”
“The fire occurred as a result of an electrical failure in the charging system for an electric vehicle,” said a report by the fire authority, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.”
“The report also emphasizes that the cause of the fire is unclear.”
“The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system” which was plugged into a 240-volt wall socket, the report said.”
“The fire occurred on November 15 in Irvine, California. The possible link between the fire and the Tesla Model S was not reported previously.”
It’s evident to us from that passage that Reuters was having difficulty in deciding if the Tesla Model S may or even could be the possible link. Reuters should have stopped there. The use of those words alone should throw up red flags everywhere, so we’re not sure how this got past the editorial desk.
If those suspect words weren’t enough, then the following statement (sent directly from Tesla Motors to Reuters prior to Reuters releasing the article) should’ve convinced Reuters to at least put the article on hold:
“Tesla is aware of this incident, which occurred over a month ago. Based on our inspection of the site, the car and the logs, we know that this was absolutely not the car, the battery or the charge electronics. There was a fire at the wall socket where the Model S was plugged in, but the car itself was not part of the fire. The cable was fine on the vehicle side; the damage was on the wall side. Our inspection of the car and the battery made clear that neither were the source and were in fact functioning normally after the incident. In addition, a review of the car’s logs showed that the battery had been charging normally, and there were no fluctuations in temperature or malfunctions within the battery or the charge electronics.”
Reuters decided to publish the questionable article, which convinced Tesla to issue this response:
All of the above information was provided to the journalists and editors at Reuters responsible for the article. It is therefore disappointing that they would choose to publish as “news” a misleading article about an event that occurred more than a month ago that was not caused by the car and that was already covered by the Orange County Register. It appears that their objective was simply to find some way to put the words “fire” and “Tesla” in the same headline. The journalists and editors who created the story have patently ignored hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries unequivocally caused by gasoline car fires, instead choosing to write about a garage fire where there were no injuries and the cause was clearly not the car.
As a journalist, I will say that if I could not definitively make a direct connection between a vehicle and a garage fire, then publishing such an article would be purposely misleading. Using words like could or may is out of the question when the nature of the topic has the potential to topple an automaker. If you must use those words to cover your back, then the article should not make it to print.
It’s my belief that the half-empty gas can that may have been located in the corner of the garage could have caused the fire. Until there’s undeniable proof, anything could have caused the fire. Hopefully, that proves my point.