Tesla Motors Inc.’s accusation that a critical review of its Model S sedan by a New York Times writer was “fake” was rebuffed by the newspaper after Tesla’s Elon Musk released data he said backed the carmaker’s claim.
Musk, the billionaire chief executive officer and biggest shareholder of Tesla, said in a statement posted on Tesla’s website late yesterday that the electric car driven by John M. Broder never ran out of battery power as the article stated. Tesla also said Broder drove the car faster than reported in the article, citing data devices on the $101,000 sedan.
Musk’s “broadest charge is that I consciously set out to sabotage the test. That is not so,” Broder said late today in an article on the New York Times website. He said he “drove normally” at speeds matching prevailing traffic and wasn’t briefed before the trip on how to maximize range by Tesla officials including Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel.
Broder’s story is “fair and accurate,” Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement.
The dispute between the Palo Alto, California-based company and the flagship newspaper of New York Times Co. comes a week before Tesla reports financial results for 2012’s fourth quarter on Feb. 20. Tesla is counting on Model S sales and the Model X crossover that arrives in 2014 to help it become profitable.
“We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates,” Musk wrote. Musk described Broder’s story as “fake” in a Twitter post on Feb. 11.
Tesla slipped 0.4 percent to $38.30 today at the close in New York. The shares have gained 13 percent this year, compared with a 7 percent gain for the Russell 1000 Index.
The company named for inventor Nikola Tesla may report a fourth-quarter loss excluding some items of 57 cents a share, the average of 12 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company has set a goal of delivering 20,000 lithium-ion battery-powered sedans this year.
The $101,000 Model S tested by Broder has a range of as far as 300 miles (483 kilometers) under ideal conditions and when its 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack is fully charged. He drove the sedan in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-12 Celsius) during an evaluation to test Tesla’s new supercharger stations in Delaware and Connecticut designed to rapidly repower the car.
Broder said the vehicle ran out of power on the second day of his journey, eventually needing to be towed on a flatbed truck to one of the 480-volt superchargers. Tesla warns on its website that electric range is reduced in cold weather, when the heater is used and the car is driven faster than 65 miles an hour.
The carmaker said this week that media test cars are equipped with data logging technology that allows the company to monitor the battery’s state of charge, vehicle power usage and position. Broder didn’t properly charge the car, Musk said, citing the car’s log.
“The Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck,” he said.
A display screen on the Model S said the car was shutting down, “and it did,” Broder wrote today. “The car did not have enough power to move, or even enough to release the electrically operated parking brake.”