Tesla Motors vs. the NYT

Tesla Releases Driving Logs Contradicting NYT’s Scathing Review of Model S

ISTM that Tesla is claiming outright lying by the NYT reviewer. This would have to be pretty unusual behaviour for a reporter from that paper, but Tesla claims to have backing from the car’s computer logs.

OTOH, I don’t know how definitive these would be.

I would think if Tesla is correct that the evidence is clear-cut, that they would have very strong grounds for a lawsuit against the Times, since they are a business struggling to take root, and that article has the potential to be enormously damaging.

What’s your take?

Really? I don’t know how many other outright fabrications from their reporters have been printed. Their usual style is to publish the outright fabrications of others.

I hope they get their asses sued off.

Link to the actual logs. The wired article says that

So we have graphs of the logs, but no raw data. I guess it depends on if you trust Tesla or not. If they’ve faked their graphs, they certainly did a hell of a job. I’m inclined to believe them. Seems like the reporter had a story in mind that he wanted to write, and when he couldn’t get that story he just made shit up.

If Tesla is right, they’ve been handed a great PR gift. And the NYT has lost me forever if they don’t take decisive and public remedial measures. If Tesla is playing fast and lose with the truth, I’d be much more disappointed.

Either the NYT is lying its ass off, or Tesla is lying its ass off (or both). I tend to believe that the NYT is full of shit and has an agenda. Judith Miller cheering on the useless war in Iraq and the destruction of Wen Ho Lee’s character formed my opinion about that years ago. They also lied constantly about Bill Clinton when he was President, but I kind of thought that was fair game.

Telsa didn’t like Top Gear’s review back in 2008 either. They sued The BBC for “libel and malicious falsehoods”. The case was thrown out.

Apparently, Tesla claims that Top Gear fucked them over too. So do I believe both the NYT and Top Gear decided to lie about Tesla or that Tesla is lying about NYT and Top Gear. One liar or Two Liars?
Or maybe a secret cabal of auto-industrialites is pulling the strings of both the NYT and Top Gear!

I still think Tesla loses the PR war here.

Many consumers are going to look at this and see a car that’s going to strand them if they’re forced to take a long detour. We all know that road trips rarely go as planned.

Well, Top Gear actually did lie. IIRC, they drove the car around on the track a bunch and then showed it running out of juice, followed by the 3 guys pushing it into a garage. Tesla fired back saying that the car never ran out of juice, and Top Gear’s retort was basically, “That’s true, but it could have if we’d driven it a bit longer, and then we’d have had to push it into the garage.” Top Gear didn’t make any false claims about the car’s actual range, but they did make up a story because they didn’t want to spend the time to actually drive the car until it ran out of juice.

So there’s a difference, I think, between the two cases. I don’t like that Top Gear hid behind the “we’re not journalists” defense, but at the same time, their lies weren’t as blatant as what we appear to have here.

Yeah and I believe it was because of Top Gear’s actions that Tesla started monitoring the car whenever it was given out to reporters. Apparently it’s an optional feature for owners but when it’s a reporter, they require it to be on. I definitely think the NYT guy is the one lying in this case.

This is a definite problem for the Times and for Broder if it’s true. It sort of calls to mind the successful lawsuit against NBC News over crash testing that was essentially faked. If there’s something significant that Tesla is holding back, it’s an extremely aggressive and unethical PR defense. They should release the full logs if they back up what Tesla is saying. It does sound like the reporter did several things that made no sense, like not charging the car all the way, driving past a charging station when he was being warned he was almost out of power, misstating how he drove, and driving around a little parking lot in circles for no apparent reason. I don’t think the 2012 article demonstrates as much bias as Tesla says it does, which makes me a little suspicious.

That does work to Tesla’s favor. It seems strange though. If the reporter knew that the data was being collected, then why would he lie? Seems like a really dumb move. Or is the story that he didn’t know the data was being collected?

I notice a few things from Tesla’s charts and the Times article, these are facts supported by Tesla’s logs:

  1. He left Newark, DE with 242 miles of range, and was at 0 miles of range ~ 200 miles later.
  2. He recharged in Milford to 185 miles of range, far more than he needed to travel before getting back to Milford.
  3. He stopped overnight with 90 miles of range, 46 miles away from Milford
  4. He woke up with 25 miles of range and needed an emergency recharge.

Whether he was told that a short charge would get him back a lot more range than he actually got back is a He Said/She Said issue. Either way, outside of the Norwich charge, the NYT reporter charged up until the car said he had enough range to handle his tasks, with a 40+ mile buffer, and the car failed to provide that amount of range.

Fact #4 is a major problem. He went to bed with double the range he needed to get back to his recharge station, and woke up with half the range, and Tesla is complaining that he didn’t spend multiple hours sitting idle at a charging station to remedy the problem.

Fun fact, I spent 2 hours getting my car filled up after Hurricane Sandy, that isn’t a situation I want to repeat anytime I go on vacation and fail to follow a strictly designed itinerary.

Hmm, curiously, even though his range dropped by some 72% overnight, the “state of battery charge” graph shows a much smaller decrease, from about 36% to 30%.

Their claim against the NYT is that the reporter lied about how he drove the car based on the computer logs. Their claim against Top Gear is much more general. Top Gear showed what they did to test the car, and Tesla was claiming that didn’t fairly represent them. Thing like ‘the car was totally out of power’ aren’t going to hold up well if the battery was too low to be useful. Saying ‘I drove between 50 and 55 mph’ when the computer logs show the speeds were 65 to 85 mph would be more like an outright fabrication (and those numbers are fabrications, I didn’t go back to the links to get the actual ones). If the computer logs are conclusive, the NYT is the loser here. If not, Tesla may be making a mistake. Attacking the media for bad publicity can backfire big time.

In this article, he says that he stopped charging the car when it said “charging complete” but apparently there was a further option to add additional capacity (“max range”). Also, regarding the overnight drop in range, part of the problem is that it was winter in Connecticut, which probably wreaked havoc with the range of the vehicle.

And as for Top Gear, I remember an episode in which two of the guys took a Nissan Leaf and a Peugeot iOn on a long road trip in England and found that they were stuck someplace overnight because there was no recharging station locally. I thought that was unfair; most people who buy electric vehicles do so for local trips and when they’re used for long trips, you do need to plan ahead of time where you’re going to recharge. (Do you drive your gasoline car into wilderness without being aware if there are gas stations someplace?)

Interesting to note that Wired reports this as a known fact and Musk’s statements about test drives on ice tracks, sales in Norway, and a best new car award.

I remember reading the review, and then I read about the brouhaha with Tesla.

My quick take on it is that Tesla is pissed off that the NYT reporter didn’t drive the car according to their precise specifications as to how to get the best range. While the NYT reporter was reporting on how the car would handle a road trip, driven the way people would normally drive.

Well, he may have driven it the way people would normally drive, but he claimed to have driven it according to Tesla’s precise specifications.

Except in his story, he makes a big deal about how he followed Tesla’s driving advice. According to Tesla, the records show he didn’t do so. If he wanted to show you can’t drive a Tesla like a “real” car, he should’ve written that in his article instead of pretending he was doing something else.

Unless Tesla is completely faking the data, it seems pretty damning for Broder.