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A Most Peculiar Test Drive – Follow Up (teslamotors.com)
277 points by neuralnetwork 1468 days ago | hide | past | web | 200 comments | favorite

Musk is filtering the NYT's response when he says:

"the Public Editor agreed that John Broder had “problems with precision and judgment," “took casual and imprecise notes” and made “few conclusions that are unassailable.”"

Let me try to cherry pick some points from the very same NYT response (1), spun towards the opposite conclusion:

"Mr. Musk presented his data "in the most damaging (and sometimes quite misleading) way possible" and "I am convinced that [Broder] . . . told the story as he experienced it."

My point isn't that my choice quotes above are accurate, but that Musk's assessment is disingenuous to the NYT's response, and that's in the first paragraph of his article.

I'm not sure what Musk is trying to accomplish at this point, his "spin" is transparent and it feels condescending.

Tesla's goodwill in my eyes is fast eroding.

(1) http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/problems-wi...

C'mon, the entire response is a joke. The NY Times is just trying to save their face, after precipitously baking Broder without knowing the facts (and knowing that Tesla had that amount of data of the test drive).

Ms. Sullivan herself admits that "Did he [Broder] use good judgment along the way? Not especially." And also that "...Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey, unaware that his every move was being monitored." Still, she insists that it was all done in good faith and integrity.

I'm sorry, but this is The New York Times. You can't just say "oh, our journalist just messed up by NOT following common sense instructions, and NOT taking proper notes, and still writing a misleading article [about the wrong topic -- the car -- rather than the super charge stations which was the original intention]. But hey, it was all in good faith, so no harm".

To me this is exactly the opposite of what I'd expect to hear from the editor of the NYT. She missed the opportunity to recognize the flaws of the original article, apologize on behalf of their journalist for not taking proper diligence and care that you'd expect from such publication, and offer readers (& Tesla) to re-do the entire test and publish the results again.

"C'mon, the entire response is a joke."

If Musk could really back up all of his accusations, why would he be "satisfied" with this "joke" of a response?

It seems Musk prematurely accused NYT of "faking" the review, then realized they couldn't back up that accusation, and are taking this opportunity to back down.

Yeah, it looks to me like, after the Top Gear thing, they ascribed to malice what could be explained by stupidity.

But, they made a bunch of noise, got some more headlines, cast doubt on the negative review, and gave their fans a good story to use at the water cooler. Time to declare victory and drop the issue.

Musk comes across as somewhat delusional. Or really dishonest - but I suspect he really sees the world this way.

In no way shape or form did Musk's claim turn out to be true, which indeed is just like the Top Gear thing.

I particularly love how Musk seems to blame the choices of the reviewers - i.e. selective reporting, cherry-picking - for the car's undenied failures. And of course that can be entirely reasonable; if you make the wrong choices things won't work. But then he turns around and does exactly the thing he's accusing the reviewers of: he cherry-picks his data, and selectively interprets it to present it as some kind of conspiracy.

I can excuse an individual reporter for experiencing something in typically human fashion: i.e. colored by preference and ignorance, somewhat muddled and poorly remembered, and certainly not necessarily representative of the experience of others. On the other hand; Musk doesn't have those excuses. He has tons of quantitative data that he can review as often as he likes, in whatever detail he likes. He's presumably an expert on the car and knows of plausible explanations for various observations to be found in that data. He and this team have reviewed such data many times before. And yet, nevertheless, he chooses to cherrypick his observations and read into them what he'd like to see - namely that the failures are entirely the reviewer's fault and in no way the car's. (I mean, that whole driving around in circles thing... or the exact moment the temperature changed...)

Worse, the test occurred in cooperation with Tesla, so they could have predicted at least a few of these issues. Why in the heavens did Musk agree to this review in this form when it was obviously not going to be an easy drive? Didn't they look at the weather forecast and know this was going to be a problem? Isn't it obvious that a reviewer accustomed to convential cars won't be an expert in electrical range-maximization?

I'd love to see electrical cars work. It's a shame that Musk seems to think (self-)deception is the way to convince the world that they're ready for long-haul travel.

> If Musk could really back up all of his accusations, why would he be "satisfied" with this "joke" of a response?

Frankly, he's probably still not satisfied. But he realizes there's no point in trying to slay the New York Times. That's not his dragon to kill.

He's got other things to do, and the NYTimes writing terrible articles is not his interest or priority. Write a witty blog post and declare victory is the right choice here.

Perhaps it's right in the sense of good PR. But is it right in the sense of honest?

As a founder your job is to take the high road as much as possible while still pushing through the strengths of your company. It seems pretty obvious that NYT won't be changing their opinion, and maybe even reached out to Musk to confirm this suspicion. If Musk were to reply to this negatively he'd essentially be feeding an ever-lasting flame. He's taking the best parts, spinning them to those who care about his product, and is continuing on with building out a great product.

Not to mention, he's gotten a lot of good press from other media sources since (as he points out in his blog post).

The record clearly establishes that Broder engaged in unrealistic driving patterns to get the car to run out of juice--stuff like driving around in circles and ignoring range warnings--and then went on to lie and mislead people about it.

There's a good point to be made here about arguing: like baseball, choose the juciest, easiest pitches and then swing for the fences. Don't try to argue every point and stretch the truth to do so, because it damages credibility. Musk tried to argue more than he should have.

So we have a whole lot of people attacking Musk when the NYT did a provably dishonest smear job and is trying not to admit it.

How is it we are still debating parts of this which have clearly been settled and which there are clearly logical explanations for?

engaged in unrealistic driving patterns to get the car to run out of juice--stuff like driving around in circles

Broder's response: I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery.

Musk accused Broder of "driving around in circles" for 0.6 miles. What kind of car would this be if an extra 0.6 miles was sufficient to cross the line into "the battery is now fully drained"?

Occum's Razor dictates that the reason for driving around "in circles for 0.6 miles" is easily explained as being lost while trying to find a location you've never been to before. Someone doing extra malicious driving would probably go further than an extra 3000 feet.

What is more realistic than driving around lost?

I found it extremely hard to believe that is the case based on 3 things:

1. I've seen many comments suggesting that the parking lot is well lit in the night and the Supercharger is especially easy to spot and hard to miss, which directly contradicts to what Broader claims: "dark, unlighted, not marked". [1](http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/that-tesla-data-w...)

2. Here is a video of how well-lit and easy to spot: [2](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3fO_OHpyYw)

3. Here is the Google map: [3](http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Milford,+Conn.,+supercharger&#...) If Google's data is to be trusted, each loop is less than 100m, and 0.6miles is roughly 10 laps.

Realistic scenario for driving around and lost? I think not.

So... He drove around in circles for five whole minutes as part of conspiracy to run down the battery? Five extra minutes of driving has a material impact on the range car? It is not more likely that he was simply lost?

I think you're looking at the wrong thing in the video you linked to. Those bright, well-lit things are gas pumps! The superchargers are the hard-to-see things the driver pulls up to at the end. I'm pretty sure I would have driven past them and I'm absolutely certain I'd have driven more than half a mile if I were intentionally trying to run down the battery.

2. Is it really easy to spot? Note that Superchargers are at the very end of the video. No signs, no marks, no lights, just a few white columns near plain looking parking spots.

3. I've just measured with Google Maps ruler. It takes about 0.3 miles to drive all the ways on the parking lot and around the gas station (just near the Superchargers). So it's about 2 laps really. He could also drive another 0.2 miles if he mistakenly went around nearby McDonald's.

I think the Youtube video makes it look easier than it might be in real life since the driver goes directly to the Supercharger station (or what I assume is the station).

The rest area looked rather large and in the video I didn't see any signs directing the driver which path to take through the parking lot to get there. I could see someone who might be slightly distracted (or not yet familiar enough with the landmarks) driving through the gas station instead of turning right and missing the whole thing, and having to circle back around.

I don't think its been settled. Mr Broder lost a lot of credibility when outright lying about how fast he was going for the entire trip. Why wouldn't he lie about whether he saw the charging station. Since we don't have any data about what was going through his mind, Broder knows he can say anything in order to defend himself.

But the thing is - I don't care about Broder. We wouldn't be seeing these posts if it were just about Broder. This story is about Tesla's car!

I'd say it's undisputably true that Broder comes across as lacking professionalism. So sure, his review embellished the truth. But what exactly were you expecting?

The whole review set up is designed to be personal. It's not a scientific experiment with hundreds of trials, decent statistics, reproducible environments; it's not about the truth; it's about communicating with human beings: how does it feel to actually drive the car? It's an anecdote - and that includes all the good things (empathy, personal interest, real-life) and the bad things (non-reproducible, not your life, colored by that drivers opinion). Tesla knew this - but people make choices not just for purely rational reasons, so the human connection is one they wanted. They agreed to this test knowing full well that the range involved was going to be tricky at those temperatures, especially for a driver that doesn't have a clue about electrical cars. They also knew that the point of a review is to see what a car can do; so it's not unexpected for the reviewer to push the car a little further that you'd normally risk it.

And at the end of the day - I don't know Broder, I don't care about Broder - I don't really care about Tesla. I care about the future development of electric cars. And whatever Broder did or didn't do, the car didn't fare particularly well, and in a situation a normal car (and certainly a diesel) would have been able to do without any refill at all. Sure, you could have avoided the complete breakdown by not finishing the trip on schedule, but that's not a great alternative.

From my point of view it was never about Broder, it was about Tesla's car being put through a somewhat unfair test - but even taking into account the test's flaws, the car just doesn't come out looking good. Put it this way - I wouldn't have wanted to be Broder.

My view was that the unrealism of these assertions have been established in this and previous threads. Now they've also been established in replies below. Also, when he was driving around in circles--in a tiny lot--with a clearly marked charger--he was at 0 range, consistent with someone trying to drain the battery.

There's also the matter of him being wrong about speed and cruise control and temperature settings and range. There's also the matter of Broder being wrong in his broad thesis (testing the supercharger network) since he refused to charge when he needed to.

I should have edited support for these things things in, but had to catch a plane, and now other people have already done it in this thread. But I thought true, and discussed, and re-discussed, statements would not be judged so harshly by the mob. My mistake.

We call these sorts of things lies when they're said on Fox News--but defend distortions when the NYT does them against such an important cause and such an admirable company?

This has turned into a political argument. We might as well be arguing vim vs emacs. But I don't see any evidence that the review was intentionally dishonest or intended to be any sort of smear. Driving around for ~5 minutes in a giant parking lot doesn't seem especially unrealistic to me (if it was intended to run down the battery, it was a pretty weak attempt). The advice he says he received may sound made up to you, but that's certainly not proven (And shouldn't it be? Tesla doesn't tape its customer service calls?).

Have you never missed an exit, or attempted to find your way in an unfamiliar area? Half a mile is trivial.

Perhaps I'm outing myself as a klutz of a driver, but just this week I missed an exit and ended up on the Bay Bridge to Oakland (ta-da, 20 mile detour).

If I were actively trying to burn through mileage I could probably do a fair bit better.

You have no facts to back anything of what you said up. And that "driving around in circles" bit is debatable when you actually see the chargers in question:


Oh and that giant, lit up structure is NOT the chargers.

Disagree. Go read the NYT editorial response, it's so full of spin it could serve as an amusement park ride. It only served to muddy the waters, give some kind of half-not-apology, in the hopes the issue would drop.

I'm surprised so many people are hating on Mr. Musk.

If Kim Jong-un said he was the Queen of Pluto and the Financial Times responded with "the Kim family are genetically engineered Nazis", I would still lose respect for the Financial Times.

Musk's portrayal of the New York Times's response is dishonest; that burden is not lightened by the Times's original article having been similarly inventive.

Can you elaborate on what you thought was "spin" or how the public editor was unfair?



First the NYT says Broder was honest:

Mr. Broder and The Times have maintained that the article was done in good faith, and that it is an honest account of what happened.

Then the NYT says Broder was misleading (dishonest):

Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey


Next, the NYT says Broder should have taken more detailed logs:

A little red notebook in the front seat is no match for digitally recorded driving logs...

But next the NYT says more detailed logs are pointless:

I could recite chapter and verse of the test drive...I don’t think that’s useful here.


And the NYT says Border did the test drive in good faith:

I am convinced that he [Broder] took on the test drive in good faith

But then the NYT criticizes his good faith:

...there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable


That's just a quick snapshot of the whiplash-inducing spin in the NYT editorial.

It's possible to both do something in good faith and fail to be precise in your notes. The latter does not make you "dishonest".

I personally believe that errors of omission and misleading details are identical to dishonesty, but I understand not everyone may see it that way.

That is why I said it was misleading, and parenthesized my judgement of it (dishonest).

NYT doesn't actually speak of errors of omission and misleading details anywhere. You can't just go making stuff up. To take what you quoted: Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey <-- what this means is NOT what you are pretending it means. It simply means "this wasn't done in a laboratory, so you can hardly expect everything to be correct up to 6 sig figs. Therefore, feel free to point out if some specific details aren't quite right."

It seems to me that when your boss, the person who jumped to your public defense immediately when criticized without first checking the facts, and the person who's businesses reputation is made or destroyed by the public perception of your trustworthiness - prints this about you, you've just been thrown under the bus:

"I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”

My own findings are not dissimilar to the reader I quote above, although I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it.

Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending."

To me - that's like responding to a phone call about a reference for someone from a recruiter/employer with "Ummm, they're punctual, and, umm, they fit in OK socially - most of the time".

You wouldn't jump to employ a guy who can't arrange a much more glowing reference than that - and you wouldn't believe much of what Broder writes - at least not without expecting to read poor judgement and results of flawed decisions.

Indeed. The NYT public editor didn't speak of, well, anything, anywhere; she just gave a politician's spin, designed to say the right dog whistles to the right parties and hope someone other than you will take the heat.

And political speeches are like yodeling: the point is to sound really nice, not to convey actual meaning.

Only if it's intentional. I don't think it's possible to accidentally be dishonest.

> I personally believe that errors of omission and misleading details are identical to dishonesty

Pot calling the kettle black there.

Agreed. While I feel Broder _did_ set out to do a sensationalist hatchet job - Musk certainly hasn't come out of this smelling of roses either.

I guess one can read the post and see what they want.

> Taking imprecise notes is sloppy, but it's not dishonest or even necessarily misleading. It certainly doesn't prove whether the review was done in good faith.

> I agree with the Public Editor that, at this point, parsing second-by-second detailed logs are unlikely to be illuminating unless they show some new rock-solid evidence of malfeasance.

> Your last point I don't follow at all. It's perfectly reasonable to believe the test drive was done in good faith and also believe that there is room for argument in some of the conclusions. I'm sure that's true for a great many reviews; it doesn't mean the review was malicious or even wrong.

Being disappointed isn't the same thing as hating.

I see nothing wrong in Musk defending his position vigorously because he had complete faith in the car but more so because the logs clearly indicate Broder forgot to top-off. The NYT review is damaging not only to Tesla's sales but also questions the viability of electric cars. I am ok with how Musk handled the situation and I don't think Tesla is going to lose any more goodwill in the long run any more than Apple lost during Steve Jobs' response during 'Antennagate'...the difference is that there is no damning evidence against the Tesla.

More importantly I feel that this incident has heralded a new era in media communications where the press can no longer wield this one-sided power over companies, now the companies are in a position to retort back.

I see something wrong in him mis-representing his opponent. Saying the New York Times "no longer believes that it was an accurate account of what happened" is a rose-tinted reading of the Times's response [1]. Granted, I may be projecting my Swiss sensibilities about what constitutes honest discourse.

[1] http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/problems-wi...

Unfortunately for us Americans, the Swiss have had at least a couple of hundreds of years longer to evolve discourse in the public eye, depending on how you read your history.

While there have been exceptions, I would imagine that the first real wide-ranging impact of such discourse in public in the States here began in the previous decade.

I don't think it misrepresents it too much. It's a pretty 'squirmy' retraction.

Basically they are saying what Broder wrote was incorrect, and showed poor judgement, but without faulting Broder in any way. (As ridiculous as that sounds)

Lets be very clear - it is not a retraction.

Public Editor is not part if the newsroom. It is a role outside if it and she does not have any authority other than to post to her blog.

If there is a retraction it will be clearly posted on the original article.

Imagine, for a moment, that Broder had a more detailed record of his drive and had used it to make the article 100% truthful and accurate. Would it have been any more flattering to Tesla or to the Model S?

This whole thing seems like pointless hair splitting between the Model S being very bad for road trips or only moderately bad for road trips.

In either case, take the train or rent a car. The car seems perfect for day to day driving.

A bunch of annoyed Model S owners recreated the trip recently in a convoy of 6-8, they all made it just fine without towing, etc. It doesn't seem bad for road trips in between the correct segments, of which there are more every month.

So some product enthusiasts get together to prove someone who has little experience with the product how wrong he was. Might have well as used Tesla engineers for all the credibility that has.

As in, enthusiasts are the last people I would care if they could do something. I have seen enthusiast get over a 1000 miles from the tank of a Passat but I would not vilify anyone else who could not.

Having read a few stories on both sides of the issue, including Consumers Reports own issues with the range displays provided by the car its clear that this car is only for enthusiasts / first-adopters at this stage.

It has quirks, guess what, quirks don't cut it in the transportation business. People just expect things to work. If your gasoline powered car started up cold and said you had only ten miles range and twenty minutes later reported sixty would you just shrug it off?

It really comes across that Tesla has some work to do on accurately representing the potential range of the car at all times. Read the Consumer's report story to understand the confusion that they ran into, now tell me, what do we expect from a reporter who hasn't driven the car until the day he was writing the story?


When it's unusually cold, I expect some conservatism, which translates into charging more than I think I probably need to. It's a universal that a piece of technology will operate worse in extreme conditions than in optimal ones (I'd say 15 degree weather counts). The Model S' specificity probably hinders it in this case, since people would naturally build in some buffer in the cases where they have to read an imprecise readout. Since the range readout is so precise, the expanding range is definitely a kink that needs to be worked out.

Edit: My gasoline car will sometimes show my tank as almost empty when I first turn it on, but over the next 10 minutes, will slowly but magically reveal much more gas in the tank. I don't think it's unacceptable to have any kinks whatsoever in a car... they're pretty common actually. It's just that we haven't yet learned to deal with these ones like we have with the gasoline ones.

this car is only for enthusiasts / first-adopters at this stage

This is so totally correct, and I don't get why Tesla isn't OK with that message. Even though it absolutely isn't right for everyone or every situation, they are still selling them as fast as they can make them. Mainstream problems are for mainstream products. They don't apply here.

Unless you consider luxury car buyers to be strictly enthusiasts, I don't think that it is only for enthusiasts at this stage. Except for speed of refueling, it's objectively better than comparably priced luxury cars in almost every way. It didn't win the car of the year awards due to its novelty, if you look at the performance testing breakdowns for roundups including BMW's, Audi's, Maserati's, etc, it did exceptionally well by any standard.

be a expert of or be a novice I am ok with both but dont fake being a expert and cast aspersion when you dont know the jackshit like "regenerative braking"

Phrases like "made it just fine without towing" and "between correct segments" just support the conclusion that the Model S is only moderately bad for road trips :)

Which is fine, if money were no object, I would have an electric city car for daily use as well as a big luxury car with heated seats and a huge gas tank when I wanted to go on road trips.

The towing remark was to say that it wasn't exactly borderline for any of the 8, that the reporter was the exception rather than the rule.

Meh, the segments cover every trip I take frequently on the west coast, and the same will be true on the east coast once I-95 is covered.

IF you don't charge it fully (or charge it over-night)

I live in Australia and go bush/camping a fair bit. I'm not getting a Tesla for raodtrips any time soon. But If I was to drive MEL->SYD in it -- I'd be recharging in full at each super-charger along the way (assuming they existed)

I might have got the wrong end of the stick here, but I think he did. He wanted to test the super charger network, and then found after leaving the car in the cold overnight that although it had originally said he had the range to make it to the next supercharger, it now said that he didn't. Because of that he compromised and tried to top up with juice from a normal charger. That was the charger he didn't fill up completely from, where he did an unplanned and unexpected charge for approximately an hour (or approximately three quarters of an hour if you believe Tesla). Either way, he hadn't wanted to charge there in the first place, was keen to be moving again and believes that Tesla staff gave him the OK, telling him that the missing miles would come back once the car was going again.

From Tesla's original post: "For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%."

And the graph of battery levels shows what level he recharged to. http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/most-peculiar-test-drive

If he had charged to 100% for that last Supercharge - I wonder if the result would have been different.

looks like you're right.

For what it's worth, you weren't really going to go "bush/camping" in any of the Tesla Roadsters alternatives either. It's a high-end luxury sportscar. It's no more or less suitable for bush/camping trips than a 5 series BMW or an Audi A6.

And while it's clear it's not a suitable car for GT touring type roadtrips, it wouldn't be _too_ hard for a local Tesla dealer to set up a pair of Supercharger stations 280-320km outside both Sydney and Melbourne to make that trip viable - hell, with a decent espresso bar and a better-then-typical food establishment at each, they might even pay for themselves...

Fair enough. (I drive a Navara camping - I wouldn't take a 5 series)

I'd probably want 3 superchargers for the Hume (Wangaratta, Gundagai, Goulburn is my rough placement) (In large part this is because MEL -> CBR is probably too far for just one recharge - ie: Frankston to Tuggeranong is 737km)

I don't think that should be the standard. Broder talks about a "normal" driver not wanting to wait for hours in a diner while the car recharges. But what really characterizes most "normal" drivers I would say is that they will not pull out of a refueling station when the meter is clearly showing they will not make it to the next.

If Broder had behaved more responsibly/reasonably his article would have been about how he had to sit in a diner, waiting for the car to recharge, because he forgot to plug it in over night. I don't think Elon would have gone ballistic over that article.

I don't know, but it would have removed my objections to Broder's work.

I do want journalists to produce 100% truthful and accurate work. Especially in a case where it is so very easy to actually be factual.

Fair enough, but there's a huge gap between "ideologically-motivated, intentionally dishonest smear campaign" and "essentially accurate review that was a little sloppy on some details"

No, but it would have made him look like an idiot and made the article confusing and useless. If he had been doing his job properly, there would have been a do-over.

Well the NYT's response is basically admitting fault begrudgingly. Their usual response is, "we stand 100% behind the published piece." Getting them to give this response is amazing. Musk can certainly claim victory.

The Public Editor has no obligation to stand behind anything the NYT's publishes. Just the opposite -- they are supposed to stand up to the paper where appropriate. I don't think it's fair to say that they usually stand 100% behind sloppy reporting (but feel free to point me to other instances).

> I'm not sure what Musk is trying to accomplish at this point, his "spin" is transparent and it feels condescending.

Musk has apparently decided after Top Gear that negative press is going to be an issue which he will fight to the death. It certainly feels like he's digging his way out of this particular PR hole.

> he's digging his way out of this particular PR hole

Out of? Or into?

I have to admit I like Musk a lot more when he keeps his mouth shut. With this and his ludicrous Boeing grandstanding, he is sounding less like a mature, visionary CEO with every word he says.

Yeah, Musk has done some great things, but he seems the sort of person best admired from a distance with some vaseline on the lens... looking too closely reveals something rather less admirable.

[e.g. his "I'm the alpha in this relationship" quote,† at his wedding... I mean, that's downright creepy...]


[note: I originally cited http://www.esquire.com/features/americans-2012/elon-musk-int... as a source for the quote, and some replies refer to it, not the Marie Claire op-ed (which is a more direct source).]

My god, that journalist should write for soap operas. Based on my firsthand experience with journalists, I would not be at all surprised to learn that what you quoted was something reported second hand, was said ironically, taken out of context, etc. Suggesting equivalence between the nature of his romantic relationships and the nature of the SpaceX relationship with NASA? Methinks the pendulum has swung a bit far.

> Based on my firsthand experience with journalists, I would not be at all surprised to learn that what you quoted was something reported second hand, was said ironically, taken out of context, etc.

Journalists shouldn't get a free pass simply by virtue of their profession, but neither should they be vilified for it.

I am not particularly familiar with this issue, but a google search turned up the following op-ed, written by Musk's ex-wife [1] :

    Still, there were warning signs. As we danced at our 
    wedding reception, Elon told me, "I am the alpha in this 
    relationship." I shrugged it off, just as I would later
    shrug off signing the postnuptial agreement, but as time 
    went on, I learned that he was serious. He had grown up 
    in the male-dominated culture of South Africa, and the 
    will to compete and dominate that made him so successful 
    in business did not magically shut off when he came 
    home. This, and the vast economic imbalance between us, 
    meant that in the months following our wedding, a 
    certain dynamic began to take hold. Elon's judgment 
    overruled mine, and he was constantly remarking on the 
    ways he found me lacking. 

    "I am your wife," I told him repeatedly, "not your employee."

    "If you were my employee," he said just as often, "I would fire you."
[1] http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/relationship-issues/mill...

The worst thing about that quote is the sense that it will make Elon Musk even more of a role model to the thousand or so insecure boys who seem to show up to every internet discussion about gender roles. Mr. Musk may be admirable in the ad astra per aspera sense, but that doesn't mean he is an earthly saint and shouldn't be called on his BS from time to time.

Aping your heroes worst qualities is not good for you or your hero.

Thanks, that's a better citation for this quote; I've changed my comment to use it.

I'm criticizing the journalist for writing drivel. I am perfectly willing to believe Elon is a jackass in his personal life. But does any of this have a bearing on the matter at hand?

>But does any of this have a bearing on the matter at hand?

Yes. You made incorrect assumptions about the source of the quote.

Regardless of whether she [Musk's ex wife] may be biased, it's certainly a first hand account of the event in question.

Marie Claire? Really? Even US Magazine would be a step up from that rag.

It's an op-ed, and the author is Musk's wife [first hand account of the quote in question]. The publication is irrelevant in this context.

> Out of? Or into?

I'd argue into. He appears to think he's digging his way out.

Agreed. This blog post is at least as disingenuous as the original article that Musk called "faked."

I am surprised that so many people are "disappointed" in Elon Musk. So he overemphasized some parts and underemphasized other parts of NYT's response (which admitted that there were some inaccuracies in the contested article). But so what? Elon Musk and Tesla have done an amazing job with the Model S, and its quality does not change because of the misrepresentation. If this is enough to get disappointed in Elon Musk, then you should awfully disappointed with a whole lot of people.

No, because that's not how disappointment works. You must understand that Elon Musk is considered one of the most ultimately successful technological innovators on earth by many here: he began with a startup, then proceeded to build a commercial space company, work on solar energy and electric cars. It is unsurprising that this causes many of us technically inclined people to unconsciously worship Musk - if only a little bit.

Then, when it turns out that the person you've just neatly placed upon a pedestal does something you very much disagree with, too, is when people actually become disappointed.

To me, it sounds like saying that Elon Musk was God and we worshiped him, and now he made a mistake. So he is not perfect anymore, and people are upset. And won't be buying Teslas anymore.

Yes. You can make a caricature out of it, but that's how human beings work.

Not to mention the fact that this figure seem childishly incapable of admitting fault. Urgh. I hate it when people can't accept responsibility. It's fine to make a mistake, especially since this didn't do much real lasting harm. So admit, learn from it, don't do it again. Don't twist the facts and (delusionally and irrelevantly) declare victory.

I can only speak for myself, but I'm disappointed because it seems like a really cool car and I really like what he's doing, but the way Musk viciously attacks critics is a serious turn-off. I think the essence of Broder's complaints about the range of the car and cold weather and getting used to a car with different operating constraints are entirely legitimate even if they weren't written with the precision one might expect from the NYT (and, it's worth noting, it wasn't an altogether negative review). It's disappointing that he would attack not just the review, but the reviewer personally.

Your argument is: "Because Elon Musk and the Tesla team have done an amazing job with the Model S, it is impossible/improper/wrong for people to be upset/disappointed in his behaviour." Really?

That's hardly a spin.

Musk: "Victory! The NYT admits Broder got his facts wrong!"

Devil's advocate "Defeat! The NYT still stays Broder was honest!"

No contradiction here, just plausible deniability. Broder made honest mistakes that lead him to get his facts wrong (well). Tesla motors is happy to come out clean, and its cherry picking is just making clear they won't press the issue.

I have a problem with honesty as the redeeming quality problem of the article. Honesty is certainly one of the most important traits of a journalist, so is understanding bias and preventing bias as much as possible. Broder was honest in representing his trip but apparently (sloppy notes, see NYT article) didn't do due diligence when it comes to questioning his own perception and recounting of the events.

>I'm not sure what Musk is trying to accomplish at this point, his "spin" is transparent and it feels condescending.

He's attempting to change the public perception surrounding a very questionable hit piece on his company.

While it feels somewhat polarizing to me, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

IMO, he's making it look worse. I didn't even know about this article and I've still mostly avoided reading about this stuff but my take away so far is that Elon's car is hard for normal people to use, and he's so aggressive at attacking anyone who would say anything bad about it that they're probably right.

Of course you can say "but, you're not even fully informed about the issues" and it's true, but neither will most consumers.

For all the talk about Broder lying and manipulating the record, I would argue that the follow-up is far worse in terms of intentionally misinterpreting the facts.

"Yesterday, The New York Times reversed its opinion on the review of our Model S and no longer believes that it was an accurate account of what happened."

Could not be further from the truth. NYT stands behind the integrity of Broder. And it's clear based on the cherry-picked quotes in the next few sentences that Musk omitted the inconvenient facts. (quoting “problems with precision and judgment," but omitting where NYT stands by the integrity of Broder's account)

The worst part of this is that Tesla still hasn't answered to the actual issue here: the advice that Tesla gave Broder. And until they actually address the issue at hand, Musk is playing games with a public that seems to worship him and want to take down NYT.

Heartily agreed. I am extremely disappointed with Musk over this incident -- and now with the NYT as well, for failing to stand their (valid) ground and failing to call out Musk's blatant lies and manipulations.

As the dust settles, it appears that the worst that Broder is guilty of is being less than lab-test-precise in his reporting. (He did make some unfortunate decisions, such as not charging further on various occasions, but all of these decisions strike me as entirely reasonable given the facts as he understood them at the time, and -- critically -- the advice he was given by Tesla.) It should be noted that the basic thrust of his piece appears to be entirely accurate: everything started out fine; then he started having range problems; he took significant but not drastic measures in compensation; these measures were insufficient. For instance, he may have been a bit sloppy about details such as exactly when he turned down the cabin temperature or exactly what speed he slowed down to, but it's uncontested that he did lower both temperature and speed well below what a normal driver would expect in a normal car.

The car seems to have committed a sin larger than any of Broder's: it "lost" a large amount of range overnight. This was one critical element in the eventual failure (the other being various bits of bad advice from Tesla, in particular the advice to ignore the low range reading after charging for only a short period at the public station that morning).

But the worst sins, by far, are Musk's. He made many sensational accusations. Some seem clearly false, such as Broder "driving in circles" in a supposed attempt to kill the battery (Broder's explanation that he was simply looking for the charging station is far more plausible). Many more of Musk's statements are deliberate distortions of the worst kind. The "battery never ran out of energy"... which may be technically true, but whatever energy may have remained in the main battery, the car was so dead that it couldn't even be towed without a flatbed truck. "Why would anyone do that?" (leaving the last charging station with insufficient charge) when it now appears uncontested that this was under explicit advice from Tesla. "Drove right past a public charge station" -- which he didn't know about, Tesla staff didn't tell him about, and Tesla staff had implied he wouldn't need. And so forth. His entire "most peculiar test drive" piece reads like something Fox News would say about an Obama policy proposal -- nitpicking, distorting, misdirecting, and outright mocking.

I've always been a fan of Tesla, SpaceX, and Musk, but I will never look at him in the same way again.

"I've always been a fan of Tesla, SpaceX, and Musk, but I will never look at him in the same way again."

I felt the same way, and that's why I think it is appropriate to link to the following post:


(There are some valid criticisms of LessWrong and EY, but none of the problems really concern the above post, which is simply an excellent piece.)

What we're seeing here is that kind of thing happening.

Off-topic, but what sort of valid criticisms of lesswrong and ey have you seen? I'm not aware of any discussion about that community other than at that community itself. Just curious if there are any links/summaries.

I've found Less Wrong to be somewhat useful and interesting community, and I've made some friends over the past year at a few of the meetups in the Bay Area.

That said, it's possibly slightly ironic that many (perhaps even the majority) of the LW members, (in my personal experience) seem to naturally posses low levels of instrumental rationality, and tend to be unusually self-unaware of their own feelings and unconscious motivations.

Another way to say this: "common sense" is not something (in my experience), that is respected, understood or utilized in spades within the community.

Furthermore, while there are criticisms of LW out there, I agree with Aaron Swartz's central claim[1] about a lack of skepticism. While I'm a huge advocate of Bayes theorem, I would be wary of calling myself a "Bayesian", or other self-reinforcing label. Although calibrated belief networks (eg BBN's)[2] are powerful, they can also fall prone to delusional outputs where there exists a lack of sufficient external feedback.

Much of the rhetoric focuses around the charismatic and arguably pompous (don't mean to sound harsh) character of Eliezer Yudkowsky. IMHO this is considerably more evident, than the level to which HN centers around PG, for example. As for LW, further comparison's have been made to a cult before. [3][4]

In addition, and this is more a personal quibble, there seems to be an inclination towards debate vs dialectic. But that's probably true of nearly any community out there. HTH.

[1] http://lesswrong.com/lw/atm/cult_impressions_of_less_wrongsi...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_network

[3] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=13018494520A...

[4] http://kruel.co/2012/07/29/possible-reasons-for-a-perception...

That's a good summary, thanks. I know that with myself, I have a side interest in analyzing communication patterns (and argument patterns) in others - communities in particular. So I start getting analytical and looking at things in terms of rationality and bias. But I find that it might be making me slow down in my personal life - meaning, I start to arrive at things methodically and analytically that could be arrived at much quicker through intuition and common sense. It's frustrating. So I'm not sure it's just ironic - it might even be causal.

Here's an example, but it's hardly scholarly: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/LessWrong.

You're right that it doesn't get discussed much, I think largely because the explanatory material is dense and rather turgid, so would-be critics don't get far enough to make meaningful criticisms; that's certainly the case for me.

I was reading http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Roko%27s_basilisk earlier today, and while I don't know that much about EY, LessWrong, and the institute, it was... yeah.

A somewhat in-depth discussion of the basilisk can be found here: http://www.reddit.com/r/LessWrong/comments/17y819/lw_uncenso.... Read at your own (possible) risk.

Safe to read if you don't subscribe to utilitarianism. :-)

"Vern: You know, one of two things happens when you meet your heroes, either they're assholes, or they're just like you are. Either way you always lose."

I agree with you main point, but not the last bit.

The "public" don't worship Musk and don't want to take the NYT down. The small group who like Musk do, but a whole bunch of public don't. This forum is very pro Musk, but also intelligently critical, while very much wanting to support him. The frustration here with Musk is very obvious. But that is only a small part of the pie as it were.

See, I have one foot in the hacker/geek/tech world, and one foot in the motor world. The motor world laughs at electric cars and Musk is the main "green hippy idiot" who makes great claims that fail, from their POV. Its worse, they feel threatened by Musk and his electric cars, as he threatens the big sexy V8 and the manly roar of man mobiles. And I can see that too. But any way they can attack him, they will. And these guys are the ones he needs to eventually convince.

Thats a lot of writing for such a small point!!!!

You take the same stance of "false statements are not lying if you make them to the best of your knowledge". That can not be the standard we hold journalists to.

Broder has "problems with precision and judgement" and his method of keeping a log is "casual and imprecise notes" in "a little red notebook in the front seat". He is a hopeless amateur in the 21th century.

What doesn't come across in this post is how squirmy the public editor's post is (http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/problems-wi...) .

It is particularly weird that the editor seems to imply that it was somehow unfair of Tesla Motors to turn on the data recorder without telling Broder. If the Times had collected more rigorous data than Tesla and then cornered them on some claim or other without revealing that they had contradictory data, the Times would be patting themselves on the back for their hard-hitting investigative moxie. But I guess it's a different story when the shoe is on the other foot.

It was unfair to turn it on while representing to him that it is only turned on "with customer consent" and not telling him that they don't consider him a customer.

Most customers actually have to purchase the vehicle rather than just getting a test model to review.

It's unfair to use your product's features to catch someone lying about said product during a review? Heaven forbid!

You're being pretty ridiculous. If Border had been told the data was on he would have probably approached note taking in a completely different manner. Having not been told that he took shoddy notes and relied on human memory, perception and so on. Now the real data comes back and makes it seem like he was lying and that's not fair.

> If Border had been told the data was on he would have probably approached note taking in a completely different manner.

He's a freaking journalist. He should always approach note taking in the most careful, rigorous manner, regardless of whether he thinks his subject will be able to second-guess his conclusions.

Correct me if I am wrong, but this is what it seems like you are implying: It's okay for someone of his stature (from the NYT) to take "shoddy notes and [rely] on human memory", since he wasn't told that "the data was on".

No, there are many problems with it. For example, how do we even know the data is right? If the people Broder called gave him bad advice, maybe it's because something was inaccurate? Maybe the data isn't quite right. If Broder had known this whole thing was going to be recorded he could have brought his own recorder to protect himself from an overly aggressive company lying about his experience.

Shoddy data collecting/telemetry? Seriously? Is that what you're suggesting? Because SpaceX (another Musk company) has rockets that dock with the space station.

Definitely not worshiping Musk here, but if you can get a rocket to dock with the ISS, I'm pretty sure you can collect charge state, speed, and cabin environment control settings pretty accurately.

This is very much Musk worship. You really think they use the exact same software at Tesla as they use for SpaceX? Is there any reasons at all to believe the programmers from these two companies have ever even met each other? Or share code via some kind of cross-company repository?

Since Musk drives product development at both companies and owns both of them, yes, I'm confident engineers collaborate between the two companies. It would be stupidity not to.

>Having not been told that he took shoddy notes and relied on human memory, perception and so on.

And now maybe he and other journalists will know not to write damaging pieces based on shoddy notes and their vague recollection of what happened. If Tesla Motors had told him in advance that they were collecting data, then he would have been more careful in that specific review, and then when he went to report on a less resourceful company that couldn't keep tabs on him, he'd fuck them like he tried to fuck Tesla.

The fact is that Tesla has been bitten by this kind of thing before (see Top Gear). Who can blame them for wanting to set an example at the nearest opportunity?

There is no evidence he "tried to fuck Tesla". From what I've gleaned, his review is what most non-fanboys would have ended up with. It looks to me like the typical clash of business guys vs. tech guys. The business is saying "hey, this sucks I can't figure it out" and the tech guys are spouting true but useless statistics at them, all the while mocking them for "ignorance".

The customer's perception is more important than the car sellers data.

>Who can blame them for wanting to set an example at the nearest opportunity?

Set an example of what? That if you don't write a glowing review they're going to throw an infantile fit on the internet?

>Set an example of what? That if you don't write a glowing review they're going to throw an infantile fit on the internet?

Set an example of what happens when you fudge facts to get a better story.

Doesn't sound to me like they explicitly represented it to him one way or the other. After the Top Gear situation, it's surprising to me that he wouldn't assume that they would turn it on. In any case, I don't think this can reasonably be considered underhanded behavior on Tesla's part.

Musk's post does not reflect how a paper, and specifically the NYTimes Public Editor position, works.

The Public Editor's opinion is not the same as the NYTimes' opinion, so it is wrong to say, as Musk does, that "The New York Times reversed its opinion".

It can be an easy mistake to make, if one doesn't read carefully or understand journalistic conventions (such as the difference between signed and unsigned editorials). But the sidebar of the Public Editor's page helps to clarify:

Margaret Sullivan is the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times. She writes about the Times and its journalism in a frequent blog – the Public Editor’s Journal — and in a twice-monthly print column in the Sunday Review section. The public editor’s office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.

That is, the Public Editor is an in-house critic and independent opinion, but not a final arbiter or official mouthpiece.

I hope more people read this. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding by some people here about the Public Editor (which is actually an ombudsman). That's not going to stop Elon from capitalizing on their ignorance though.

I am losing respect for Musk with every subsequent chapter of this PR blitz.

What at first promised to be a battle of facts vs fiction is instead turning into yet another word-twisting smear campaign.

This is disingenuous. In fact, his willingness to blatantly twist the words of the NYT calls into question all his previous statements (including some of the interpretations surrounding the data collected during the drive). Unfortunate.

For a person so obsessed with journalists' accuracy, he is pretty quick to interpret/cherrypick/adjust the public editor's piece in the best possible way for him.

No kidding. "Public Editor agreed that John Broder had “problems with precision and judgment," “took casual and imprecise notes” and made “few conclusions that are unassailable.”"

What was actually written: "In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable."

Mangling a quote like that is effectively lying. It's a pretty stupid move to make after succeeding in challenging the negative PR.

>It's a pretty stupid move to make after succeeding in challenging the negative PR.

You must be crazy if you think Tesla has "succeeded" over this.

Complaining about the article caused more people to read it, but I'd bet that most of the people who read the article have also heard about other news outlets replicating the test without issue. The most common understanding of the situation is probably that the New York Times article was an exaggeration.

I'm confused. The NYT didn't retract anything. If they acknowledged that Tesla was, in fact, 100% correct, they would have done that. Go take a look at their corrections page.

So how does the editor's piece actually support any of what he's saying?

I don't think journalists' accuracy is what he is obsessed with. This was a single PR battle and while Elon is an admirable engineer, he is proving he is an equally good marketer.

he is proving he is an equally good marketer

You are entitled to your own opinion. My opinion is that I am not alone in being turned off by Musk. I no longer desire to buy a product from a company he operates. As an astute friend of mine who is both a theoretically trained scientist and active entrepreneur wrote as a comment on the New York Times public editor piece (on my Facebook wall), "Even if you completely accept Elon Musk's analysis, the bottom line is that owning this car is very expensive and a big pain in the tookus." If I spend that much money on what one of my law school classmates once called a "penis car," I don't want the car leaving me feeling like a schmuck or the car company's president acting like a schmuck in public.

I don't know if declaring a concession when there wasn't one is good marketing. I can almost guarantee this post is going to blow up in his face. Playing fast and loose with the truth in an argument based on the whether the other party told the truth? Press is going to love this response and tear him to pieces.

"Press is going to love this response and tear him to pieces."

Agree. As the saying goes don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Journalists probably stick together and have each others back more than they don't. Not to mention that they could very well be jealous of Musk's fame and fortune as well.

In many people's eyes as well where there's smoke there is fire. For example if this story appeared on 60 Minutes even as fair and balanced it would not be good for Musk and Tesla. (Not the same situation of course but to anyone curious dig up "60 Minutes Audi" to see what happened to that brand.)

Mr. Musk is very good at marketing Tesla's poor performance in cold weather. He single-handedly streisanded the company's cold-weather battery problems. Before, only EV afficionados knew about the problem. Now, everyone does.

All he's managed to prove is that he should leave the marketing to the professionals and go back to whatever it is he does at Tesla.

good marketer? To me he seems childish and combative.

I understand he had beef with the original scathing review, but his own rebuttal should've been bulletproof. While it made some good points, it was also nitpicky and interpretive. I expect better from the public face of the silicon valley's vehicular prodigy.

By straight out misquoting about what was said? That's not a good marketer.

Musk pretty seriously mischaracterizes the NYT Public Editor's piece, but I don't see any straight-out misquotes. Can you point them out?

Musk said that Sullivan said,

'John Broder [...] made “few conclusions that are unassailable.”'

While, yes, the bit in quotation did appear in the piece, it was in the following:

"In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable."

I would deem that a "misquote", though if you insist it's a serious mischaracterization of the context of a quote or something, I'm not sure I'll argue too strenuously over the semantics.

It really made me question the integrity of the data logs. He could have cherry picked that too.

> "The New York Times reversed its opinion on the review of our Model S and no longer believes that it was an accurate account of what happened."

Contrast with this:

> "The Times have maintained that the article was done in good faith, and that it is an honest account of what happened."

It's hardly accurate to say that the Times "reversed its opinion." Revised, maybe, but the article he's referring to did more side-stepping than anything.

Elon isn't winning points with me by trying to spin the story to sound more favorable.

You're right, but this is a PR battle at this stage, and these are rarely known to be won on nuance and accuracy.

Perhaps that's true for most people, but I expected more from both sides.

What more did you expect from the NY Times? They seem to be quite forthcoming and balanced.

Their reporter was busted for at best being sloppy and at worst lying to grind an axe against electric vehicles -- and they delivered a mealy mouthed half-admission of fault. A controversial, sensational story that isn't "unassailable" and was shown to be very questionable should have been withdrawn without mincing words. If they want to run the tests again under more rigorous circumstances, then they're free to do so.

We really should expect better from those with the job of giving us information.

A journalist who took better notes?

For those who are curious, here's the NYT article Mr. Musk is talking about: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/problems-wi...

"[...] I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. [...] Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn. [...] were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.

In addition, Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey, unaware that his every move was being monitored."

Here's the full quote of the last one: "few conclusions that are unassailable."

>"People will go on contesting these points – and insisting that they know what they prove — and that’s understandable. In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable."

It is disingenuous to misquote to that extent.

Let's figure what the important points are.

The Times effectively said "well, our review wasn't quite true but..."

And Tesla figuratively jumped in and said "Hey, I'm glad you admitted your review wasn't true".

Seems like a fine way to end things.

Sure, one could say "But - but, the 'truth is the middle'..." Sure but when you're publishing a review that going to have an economic effect on a company, you have an obligation to both not be false and to not be "sloppy to the point of falsity". So what if Broder was found to not be engaging in an malicious falsification? That the Times admitted Broder was far too sloppy is enough so that Tesla's job of protecting his company's reputation is done.

Interesting. Only when it comes to the defense of Musk, we can "figure what the important points are"?

The Times review's important points were "Supercharger distances are a bit iffy and cold weather drastically affects driving distances"

Tesla's important points were "Hey, since you quoted your speed wrong, I'm going to accuse you of lying/intentional sabotage and ignore all other issues/bury the criticisms"

To be honest, the Tesla owners telemetry drives confirms Broder's issues on the first 200 mile leg to Milford. I believe 4 out of 6 drivers ended with < 30 miles remaining (one with 3 miles remaining I believe) on a full 100% 270 mile range charge. Broder charged to 240.

Broder made many stupid choices. But the "important points" are that more superchargers are needed (confirmed by CNN), and cold weather affects battery level (confirmed by Consumer Reports). There were many ways of dealing with those two issues while showing that Broder had a outlying experience without turning this into a media whinestorm.

The Consumer Reports article can be found here http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2013/02/tesla-model-s-w...

Its events like this which only go to show, even a 100k

The Times review had some details that were incorrect, but getting them right wouldn't have made it any more favourable to Tesla. Elon Musk's response, on the other hand was both technically accurate and fundamentally dishonest. Technically the car may not have run out of battery power, but it was dead until recharged nonetheless. Technically it reported its range accurately on the last leg, but that was no help to Broder since once he found out it had lost most of its range overnight there wasn't enough left to make it to the Supercharger. If you look at the logs, he did drive around for 0.6 miles on empty when he reached the second charger - but that's what happens if you miss the turning. He could've charged completely rather than just to 28%, but Elon neglected to mention that would've taken 10 hours, longer than it actually took to complete the trip including breaking down and getting towed! And so on, and so forth.

Broder's figures are wrong, but Elon's entire story is basically a lie, and that's far worse.

Actually lets be clear - odd as it is - the Public Editor does not speak for the Times.

> But, most of all, we would like to thank our customers, who rallied immediately to the defense of Tesla and the electric car revolution, sending hundreds of heartfelt letters of support to The New York Times in the space of a few days!

Holy propaganda style writing batman. Does Musk's business card for Tesla have the job title Dear Leader?

"Entirely of their own volition, several customers spent the past holiday weekend recreating the Broder test drive route and showing that it can be done easily using the Tesla Supercharger network on the East Coast. "

Musk loses some points here by not being exactly forthcoming about the details of the 'community drive' that took place, which actually required an over the air update to complete due to one of the cars not taking a full charge:

Source: http://green.autoblog.com/2013/02/18/tesla-model-s-road-trip...

He should have just left that bit out, now it calls the rest into question.

I know I am walking upon a mined field here, but I think that, despite his hero status, a certain kind of insecurity is showing these days from him. I mean, if you are sure you have a good product would you argue to death with a journalist or will you answer him then let the public try and judge the product on his own when it comes out?

I mean, I don't think that if someone would have badly criticized the iPhone someone at Apple would have been deeply concerned, because they were certain that thousands of authors and thousands of users would have praised it soon thereafter, and a few bad opinions wouldn't have harmed it much.

While I fully agree with your point -- This response rubs me the wrong way too -- when it comes to cars bad PR can be way more damaging than with phones.

Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/60_Minutes#Unintended_accelerat... (referenced by someone higher up in the thread). One TV show with a car that had been tampered with caused a massive amount of lost sales for Audi, to the point where they considered pulling out of the US market entirely. Sales didn't bounce back for a full 15 years.

I can definitely see why someone in the auto industry would be extremely touchy about things they think were written by journalists in bad faith.

I agree about sensing that feeling too. But I think it stems more from emotional involvement in the product in addition to what is at stake for the company at this make or break stage.

While it does seem Musk might actually feel personally aggrieved, I see the situation as follows: In spite of a lot of progress on making a fully electric car, the Tesla S has obvious shortcomings as a replacement for an ICE car. Mainly, it requires constant vigilance to maintain the battery, and the battery is subject to unpredictable behavior with regards to predicted range and maintaining a charge, which are worsened by cold.

These weaknesses were illustrated by the original NYT article, and no amount of spin, or "better" reporting can change this.

Musk knows that once a meme gets started along the lines of ""Tesla is the car that leaves you stranded unpredictably and doesn't work in cold climate" gets started, it is game over for reaching a mass market. So the story is a potential existential threat to the company, requiring maximum response. Losing credibility with some of the HN crowd is not such a threat, the market they represent is tiny.

He mainly needed to bring up doubts about the story enough to prevent it from becoming a defining story on the S. It might not have been pretty, but in this I would say he succeeded.

I had better recycle some electrons to mention a neglected article about the Tesla Model S that is not part of the crossfire between Elon Musk and the New York Times. There was an extensive, and on the whole rather favorable, review of the Model S from The Verge


submitted to HN while most participants were discussing the original New York Times review by John Broder. (Most participants missed the discussion on the article from The Verge.)


The author of the report in The Verge takes care to mention, "Tesla hopes for its first quarter of black ink this year after a decade of operation, but make no mistake, it’s still in the throes of startupdom. Much of its working capital has come from nearly half a billion dollars in low-interest rate government loans. It has just a few dozen dealers around the world." Elon Musk seems desperate to stay in spin mode about any article on the Model S that is less than laudatory precisely because he can't brag up his company by referring to market share or sales growth or other issues that most entrepreneurs refer to.

AFTER EDIT: I appreciate the kind reply that mentions that Tesla Motors reports fourth quarter results tomorrow (Wednesday 20 February 2013). That will be interesting reading. Of course I was referring to the kind of general statement that a president of a successful company can make along the lines of "We have a growing, profitable business, and the word of mouth from our customers in cold states speaks for itself." But that's not what I hear from Musk, but rather nit-picking about published reviews.

The comment below prompted me to look up some investor news about Tesla, and I found a Motley Fool blog post


commenting on the results of Musk's initial response to the New York Times review: "Tesla had to defend itself on this, but drawing more attention to the incident in a way that forces Tesla drivers to be patient through recharging stations, lighter on the accelerator, and focused on the most direct path from one destination to another doesn't sound like potent marketing material for a car that costs at least $60,000."

Well, he can't because Tesla (TSLA) is a public company and releases its Q4 report tomorrow on the 20th. He can't possibly "leak" detailed numbers on market share, sales growth etc.

That said, the Verges review is worth reading (and watching) for the video editing alone.

I think it's telling that the blog post fails to link to the NYT article. Ie - if you really need to know what the public editor said, go google it.

This is a painfully obvious PR war in which the truth is the first casualty.

At this point my head drops in t my hands and I sigh.

Basically, with out having to say anything it can look like the NYT did concede. Just superficially, but enough. However, now we have yet another response form Tesla, people, like the people here, will go over it work by word to see if it all squares up now. And of course it doesn't. So what's next, another response from NYT?

If it were me, I'd have stopped this right after the NYT article. Both sides could declare some sort of victory and lessons learned, and move on. Now, of course, Tesla open up again fro more scrutiny, and as people here have pointed out in detail, Tesla don't stand up.

All this will do is entrench opinion and further increase the notion that Musk is a man who makes false claims and freaks out when called out. That is how the motor world sees him. Which to my mind is mad because Musk will need the support of these guys to sell units.

Perhaps Musk feels he can ignore the motor industry culture entirely and create a whole new one for electric. If that's the idea, then OK, fine. But if so, he has a right battle on his hands, and I suggest he doesn't need it when IMHO what he needs to do is continue to develop and perfect his product. But then, why keep trying to court the motor industry?

Maybe that is the way to go. Completely ignore the current motor culture, and create a whole new culture for electric vehicles. I mean, the railway industry doesn't court the motor industry. Or vice versa. Car manufacturers dont try to impress train manufacturers. They are totally separate. So, separate out the electric car culture. Just a wild thought!!!

I think that Tesla has a legitimate complaint with the NYT for the article. But the very first sentence of this post is a bald falsehood:

> Yesterday, The New York Times reversed its opinion on the review of our Model S and no longer believes that it was an accurate account of what happened.

The public editor is not the New York Times' opinion. She is the newspaper's ombudsman. Her opinions are entirely her own and are independent of the newspaper, and indeed often are at odds with the newspaper's policy or opinion.

This is not just spin, it's a petty and unnecessary lie. Musk has blown a lot of credibility with me.

Edit. This post comes at a curious time: Tesla's potentially make-or-break quarterly earnings report is due the next day.

Things to take note if you ever decide to do business with Musk's companies as a customer: He will twist every word and fact possible if something doesn't go right publicly.

The two biggest failings of the Tesla S highlighted by Broder still remain unaddressed. The overnight discharge of the battery and the questionable instruction by Tesla representatives are still question marks that Elon Musk has done nothing to refute.

I think we should get a Model S review done by Clarkson. That's the only way to be sure if the car is any good.

But somehow I don't see that happening after Top Gear's handling of the Roadster ... (Tesla made a big fuss when Top Gear had two teslas break down and/or run out of power during a day of testing on their track)

Top Gear's conclusion at the time was the the Tesla is not suitable for the real world [yet]. Tesla of course disagreed ... publicly and loudly.

The 'fuss' with top gear is that they implied the car ran out of energy and had to be pushed, while the car logging shows it never ran out of energy and had enough juice to drive back into the garage from any point on the track.

Top Gear could have tried to be accurate, and just kept flogging the machine around the track until it actually ran out of energy, but they really dont care. Top Gear isnt a news show, its entertainment. Its a soap opera about cars.

Yes. And if you figure out their idiolect it is the single most informative car show about cars I will likely never be able to afford I have ever seen.

> idiolect

A mashup of idiocy, intellect, idiosyncrasy, and dialect?

In compliance with my "educate, don't ridicule" rule:

"In linguistics, an idiolect is a variety of language that is unique to a person, as manifested by the patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation that he or she uses."


> The bottom line is that the Model S combined with Supercharging works well for a long road trip, even in a cold, snowy winter.

No. The bottom line is you can't drive the Model S in winter even if you have the time or inclination to call a dedicated Tesla support line a total of twelve times during a two-day trip.

The bottom line is Tesla's advice is worthless.

The bottom line is you should plug the car in every instant it's not running (which is exactly what the user manual says).

- - -

I used to be a heavy smoker. What made me stop is, everywhere I went, the only thing I could think about was "where can I get cigarettes if I run out?"

I would not like to drive a car that would put me in the same state of mind.

Here is the piece by the NYT's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that is referenced by Tesla:


okay, so what instructions were given to Mr Broder prior to his trip? Surely they don't just hand the keys over and say "have fun".

Reading one owner's story it appears there are settings one could use to get more range than standard range, range mode settings to extend the range, and so on. As in, perhaps the people handing the car off should have done a better job at it.

There are still stories from owners of Tesla S cars who have not had the greatest experiences. Any car where it comes down to a comfortable cabin or having the range to reach the next charger screams "work in progress".

I am all for new technology in cars, I just don't think the taxpayer needs to help foot the bill for luxury versions of such.

I'm not going to say he's wrong, but Musk's response is a little condescending.

Two parties are fighting over public image, I get that. It didn't have to escalate to this point, but it did. And now, when Musk has essentially emerged victorious, he makes a further blog post to grind his heel into Broder while he's down?

That's not honorable.

Musk is showing bad judgement by mis-characterising the change in attitude of The New York Times.

Broder showed poor judgement by leaving a charging station with an estimated range of half the distance he wanted to travel.

Margaret Sullivan is the one person who seems to have good judgement in this whole affair.

Viewing one's product through almost ridiculously rose-colored glasses seems to be a necessary attitude for a visionary product leader. Steve Jobs certainly had it. Perhaps that level of enthusiasm is required in order to get these products built.

In any case, Broder's review and the subsequent donnybrook don't make me any less likely to buy a Tesla -- not that I have that kind of cash lying around :-) I've owned rechargeable devices for years. I'm well aware of what's involved in maintaining batteries, and it would never even occur to me not to plug in my electric car overnight, if I had one. D'oh! as they say.

Judging by this thread, is appears Elon Musk is losing his innocence.

The NYT article seemed overly dramatic, as do Tela's responses. I don't know what the point of the NYT article was - the range wasn't as stated? It loses charge overnight in cold? And of course it's going to run out of charge if you don't fully charge it. But then Tesla keeps making statements that are also exaggerated to their benefit. The NYT rebuttal wasn't as one-sided as Elon's post suggests. Hard to find someone to 100% root for in this soap opera.

I guess Broder will be looking for a new job shortly. If that's the case, is this guy now finished as a journalist? I mean, he made some pretty big mistakes here (even if not intentional) his actions have been seen as damaging to the Tesla brand (only short-term though).

What a ridiculous post! Why would Broder be looking for a new job? And who cares if his actions were seen as damaging to the Tesla brand? Tesla is not Walmart, they're no one to fear in the slightest.

Would be nice to know why my comment is being down voted. It wasn't spammy, insulting and I thought it was on cue. This is my opinion, it's these kind of unwarranted actions that are detrimental to HN. The community of this place has taken a massive downward spiral in the last year or so

Here is what pg had said about downvoting over the years: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2435588

In short, downvoting to express disagreement has always been done and is reasonable. Also, "Resist complaining about being downmodded. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading."

It's just wrong for reasons that are covered in comments near the top. The public editor isn't part of Broder's management, and Musk is vastly exaggerating what she wrote about Broder anyhow.

Here's a friendly suggestion: if you notice downvotes on a comment during its edit window (the first two hours the comment is posted), just edit the comment, with a FRIENDLY question asking why people disagree with you. (It can be assumed that downvotes are prompted by disagreement, and as someone else has already reminded you, that has always been permitted by the culture here.) It's okay to fix a comment with an addition (I usually mark additions to my comments with the phrase "AFTER EDIT") to respond to how people react to your comment at first. We all have opinions here, and I can learn from anybody here, whether they agree with me or not.

If nothing else, the media will now think twice before giving an unfavorable review to Tesla cars.

On the other hand, the paid-for crtique and general crusade against electrical vehicles will now probably shift to less notable outlets, but on a larger scale. Think - dozens blog posts detailing bad ownership experiences, and not with company loaners that log every bleep, but with actually bought cars. It'd be interesting to see how Tesle is going to handle this... because frankly I don't think they can.

>If nothing else, the media will now think twice before giving an unfavorable review to Tesla cars.

You think so? I would think the opposite. Tesla has no power but to throw a fit and act foolish. If anything, I would expect future reviews to approach the review negatively and defensively.

Are there really such things as honest car reviews?! ...I guess EM just made a really bad judgement: he pushed his "candy money" too late towards NYT, or he somehow managed to push it to the wring person! (this really bodes bad on the public image of his business skills, so this could make some over-cautious people reconsider investing in his businesses - though I'd still place my bet on him ;) )

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

-- Hamlet, Act III, scene II

Anyone on HN own or reserved a Model S? I'm thinking of reserving the cheaper configs.

Musk's response has no answers to the following key questions

1) Was Broder advised to brake frequently to use regenerative braking? (This kills the battery).

2) How much displayed/real charge does the car lose overnight in cold weather?

3) Was Broder advised that heating the cabin will increased the displayed range?

4) When Musk said the battery never ran out of charge what did he mean? That was meant to cast doubt on Broder implying he called the towing company needlessly, but a Tesla rep spent a long time with the towing truck driver on the phone and couldn't get it to release the parking brake. Why the technical BS nitpicking stating the battery still had charge if it was totally useless?

Broder gave us the times and names of support reps and all we get is this extreme piece of worthless spin?

The fact that he's not answering the above questions leads me to believe that Broder was given some really bad advice by incompetent reps and Musk is trying to shift the blame completely onto Broder.

Broder should've recorded the support phone calls without telling Tesla, just like they turned on logging on the car he was driving.

Add to that

5) What were the cruise control setpoints?

This data must certainly have been logged, and Musk hasn't released it. Musk accused Broder of lying about using cruise control. So why not back this up with direct evidence, why only release speedometer logs?

My inference is that these logs must support Broder's account very strongly.

I can only hope that from now on reviewers of Mr. Musk cars will turn their mobile phones in data recording stations and even the field. Broder was taken by surprise; there is little precedent for the kind of irrelevant spin he was the subject of.

This is a major blow to Broder. (Career ending?)

As unlikely as it may be, Imagine he was giving his best effort and his car did act as he wrote. What shitty luck.

One thing is for sure- Reviewing a Tesla is a risky thing to do. Most other car companies wouldn't go out in public to say the review was incompetent/fake/staged.

Are you kidding? This was probably great for Broder's career. For sure he has more followers as a result of this.

And you're right, most car companies wouldn't ever let themselves look so petty and unprofessional. If they did, you can bet that a lot more journalists would line up hoping to stir some major controversy!

This is a major blow to Broder. (Career ending?)

Is it? Musk again seems petty and vindictive, and he is quite transparently very carefully selecting pieces that essentially pitches to the converted.

The editor gave a very coached response that was hardly the win that Musk seems to think it was.

In Germany, if you ask your employer for a job reference, he has to write it in the most positive words or invite a lawsuit. This leads to the bizarre situation where in such a job reference, everything is a testament to the capabilities of the employee. You can only detect the intended statement by comparing various levels of exaltation and looking for key phrases.

How does this relate to Sullivans statement? It's the same situation: you can not openly condemn the work of a colleague or the NYT as a whole. So you write everything in the most conflict-averse way as possible. That is why its such a "coached" response and 1/2 of it is even the quote from a Tesla supporter.

But frankly, everything you need to know about Broder is in the headline:

Problems With Precision and Judgment

In Germany, if you ask your employer for a job reference, he has to write it in the most positive words...

The US, in my experience, is no different, whether it be job references or letters of rec. Good writers will be able to use nuance to make their meaning clear, and good readers must be able to interpret the nuances appropriately.

The job of a public editor is wholly to fact check and criticize their own newspaper, which itself lends credibility to both themselves and the paper (because a paper that is its own worse critic seems above reproach). They have no boundary on tearing into their own paper.

However the primary complaint of the editor is effectively that the author used poor judgement in not getting every single detail absolutely right with pinpoint accuracy, particularly in dealing with anything to do with Tesla. They said that they turned the temperature down at a certain point, for instance, giving Musk the ammunition to cry outrage when his own data showed that not much further in the journey the temperature went to the minimum for over 50 miles of the journey (which, at the slow speeds recorded, would have been over an hour). It's things like that which have been the topic of most outage about the NYT article, despite not changing the actual substance of the article whatsoever.

I think the public perception of broder is that hes either:

1) Malicious/Lies to obtain desired result

2) Incompetent

Neither bodes well for him.

This episode started with Tesla claiming fabrication and a breech of journalistic ethics but ended with Tesla misquoting the times and highlighting imprecise record keeping.

If anything happened, the journalist was vindicated.

You would think that, but it is the New York Times and this stuff happens all the time in the politics section (blatant lying and lack of fact checking[saying the ND Senator is the SD Senator]) and nothing comes of it.

I love it.

No matter who's right or wrong here, the next person to review a Tesla will think twice before going about the usual raised-pinky bullshit write-up.

I love this whole episode, irrespective of who's right or wrong for so many reasons.

A CEO pin pointing bullshit (alleged) to such a degree and tech/auto journalism getting a nice dose of facts.

I think a more likely outcome is that the next person will think twice about reviewing a Tesla at all.

People keep saying this, but there's no way that's the outcome.

People review Teslas because there's a market for the reviews. That market has only increased.

Rather than fewer reviews, it's virtually certain there will be more than there would have been otherwise.

Reviewers will, however, be far more careful with the details they report, and that's good for everyone.

Had he not been though this article would have counted against tesla mostly unchallenged. In this case he has forced some concessions from the paper which may make the difference when people are researching the car for possible purchase.

>>The editor gave a very coached response that

If by "coached" you mean "squirmy", yes. I mean, she refused to take a stance on the issue and instead tried to play the role of an impartial observer, and failed completely.

Would you trust any details Broder reports?

I wouldn't. He's proven to at best be very sloppy with the details.

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