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Elon Musk Says New York Times Cost Tesla $100 Million

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In an interview posted yesterday to Bloomberg, Elon Musk, the CEO of electric car company Tesla, reflects on the controversy surrounding a recent New York Times article about the Tesla Model S. When all the dust had settled, Musk claims that the Gray Lady cost Tesla hundreds of cancelled orders and up to $100 million in lost revenue and stock value.

And that's not all. In just the first 90 seconds of the six-minute video embedded above, Musk makes a number of accusations and defenses. Just for fun, let's play a little game of "he said, we said":

He said: The data from John Broder's test drive for the New York Times "doesn't correlate at all to the article that was written". 

We said: Yes and no. While there do appear to be some discrepancies between Broder's initial report and Tesla's logs, Broder offers a point-by-point rebuttal of Musk's claims in a follow-up article. From where we sit, Broder's responses seem pretty reasonable, while Musk's complaints border on the irrational, as though he wanted to micromanage Broder's entire drive.

Ultimately, the New York Times questioned the precision of Broder's record-keeping, but not his integrity as a journalist. (Broder is not, after all, a log-keeping machine like the Model S.) And in Tesla's defense, it's worth noting that another reviewer completed the same Washington, D.C.-to-Boston test drive after Broder, arriving at his destination without incident

He said: People told him, "It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, you don't battle the New York Times", to which Musk responded, "To hell with that. I'd rather tell the truth and suffer the consequences..."

We said: We certainly encourage Musk to counter inaccuracies in reporting -- and he should be somewhat wary, since there are more than a few politicians, auto journalists, and others who neither like him nor his product. (Even Broder has been critical of electric cars in the past, which was a valid point for Musk to raise in his initial attacks.) But to see a young, enthusiastic billionaire of Musk's means setting himself up as David to the New York Times' Goliath seems slightly disingenuous. 

He said: Musk doesn't believe this is the end of John Broder's career, "I don't even think necessarily he should be fired".

We said: That's more than a little presumptuous, given that there's apparently a good bit of truth in Broder's reporting. Musk is working hard to make Broder sound like a wash-up, while at the same time building sympathy for himself because, hey, he doesn't want to see anyone lose a job. That's what we'd call "spin". 

He said: The New York Times article cost Tesla up to $100 million in lost orders and stock value.

We said: This probably isn't the most believable financial report we've ever heard. Apart from Musk's unconvincing tone of voice, it's important to note that Broder's article ran on Friday, February 8. Tesla stock closed that day at $39.24, one of the few times it's sat above $39. The next trading day, Tesla's stock opened down at $37.98 but finished up, at $38.42. The following week, Tesla's stock price edged above $39 once more.

In fact, it wasn't until last week -- well after Broder's report was published -- that Tesla's stock really began to fall. (Yesterday it closed at $34.38.) It's worth noting that the stock's price began to plummet around the 21st, when Tesla revealed its disappointing Q4 results.

He said: The New York Times resulted in many cancellations of Model S orders -- "probably a few hundred".


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Comments (7)
  1. Wow, I guess birds of a feather really do stick together.

    Despite some exaggeration from Musk's side it has been well established that Broder fudged the story, setting the car up to fail to prove his point that EVs don't work and get the photo opportunity he needed of the car on a flatbed.

    Articles like this prove though that criticizing reporters really isn't helpful. Even if you are right you really can't win.
     
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  2. Nice article. I am not sure how commentator Chris O concludes that it is "well established" that Broder fudged the story.

    I find it amusing that so many average people are taking the side of a billionaire who is taking money out of their pockets via massive government subsidies. Why is the common man subsidizing a billionaire when we are talking of sequestration, cutting aid to the needy, etc.? Do people who buy $100k Tesla’s need subsidies – surely we can allocate that money to better purposes in our current economic scenario. Musk paints a virtuous self-image but he has made over 200 visits to DC and has met over 50% of our congressmen!
     
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  3. Well Bill it seems anyone with a modicum of common sense would support Tesla if we are financing it instead of wishing it to fail. As to why the common man is financing it just look around at the other things we back like big subsidies for the oil industry...I could go on and on.
     
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  4. This is a quite subjectively written(if not overly biased) piece. It's a blog, not a news article since it's so blatant which side you back on. I don't have a dog in the fight between Elon Musk(and green tech) and NYT(the rest), but c'mon Richard Read! If you're trying to be a reporter, at least do make some effort to fake in some objectivity dust instead of bashing one side to the bitter end and ending up sounding like an oil industry propaganda. I would be turned off as just much if I read some Elon Musk gospel article, but this is no better. Why must everything need to be so polarizing these days anyway? If I read this without knowing anything, I'd have to thought that it's all Elon Musk going batshit crazy while Broder has done no wrong
     
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  5. Well, anyone that knows automobiles knows that it takes some knowledge and discipline to drive an automobile so as to get the maximum mileage. I know how to drive a Prius to obtain 10 MPG and how to drive it to obtain 50 MPG. If this reporter was in category of not knowing or not caring to know, of course the results would be less than optimal. The evidence points that others drove the same model car in similar circumstances and did get expected results. Mr. Broder could have attempted a second run for verification.
     
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  6. 6 People made the same trip. https://twitter.com/TeslaRoadTrip
     
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  7. Richard Read concludes "Whether or not Broder's assessment of the Model S was 100% accurate..." Thus, he believes Broder's assessment may be 100% accurate. 100%! Despite: (1) Tesla logs showing Broder drove in circles supposedly looking for the SuperCharger in the dark when YouTube videos show that both north- and southbound chargers would be IMPOSSIBLE to miss, (2) Broder's assertion (and nothing else) that Tesla engineers told him that he could drive the remaining 62 miles of the trip when the car said he only had 31 miles of range, and (3) the Time's article leading with a photo of the Model S on a flatbed truck when the expressed intent of the article was to evaluate the SuperChargers. Whatever happened to journalistic integrity?
     
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