Early today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted a lengthy written response to a negative report by the New York Times on its Model S electric sedan, accusing reporter John Broder of intentionally sabotaging his test drive due to a bias against electric vehicles. Now Broder has provided a response of his own, refuting many of Musk's claims — while still offering some vague responses on several key points.
Broder states that Tesla representatives told him that he only needed an hour of charging time at a station in Norwich, Connecticut, in order to reach another station 61 miles away — even though the car indicated at 32-mile range at the time (he ended up running out of power before reaching the next station). As for Musk's allegation that Broder drove around a parking lot in a circle in order to drain the battery, Broder says he was actually driving in the dark looking for "the unlighted and poorly marked Tesla Supercharger."
The reporter then responds point-by-point to many of Musk's other allegations: his Model S did shut down, despite Tesla's claim to the contrary; according to his notes, the contentious charging stop in Milford, Connecticut ran for 58 minutes, not the 47 Tesla claims; and that he had charged the car less each successive day because he was aiming for the amount needed for his next leg of travel, rather than recharging the car in full just for its own sake. Jalopnik reports that the towing company that picked up the dead Tesla has confirmed the vehicle was out of power when its towing flatbed arrived.
That said, Broder seems to provide a somewhat fuzzy recollection when it comes to the issue of how fast he drove the vehicle. In his original story, he claimed to have set the cruise control at 54 mph for a particular leg of his journey; Musk's data indicated speeds of between 60 and 81 mph. In his response, Broder says "I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h.," but admits he cannot account for the discrepancy between the data and his own recollection — though he offers up that different-sized wheels on the vehicle may have been to blame.
The New York Times' Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, addressed the controversy in a post of her own, writing that she would be interviewing Broder today about the situation. She also writes that she has tried to reach Musk, to no avail, and has asked him to make the data recorded from Broder's drive freely available for analysis. Sullivan plans to post an additional update tomorrow, but writes that "I reject Mr. Musk's central contention that Mr. Broder's Sunday piece was faked in order to sabotage the Model S or the electric-car industry."