Tesla Motors (TSLA) and New York Times writer John Broder have presented conflicting accounts of a drive he took in the company's new Model S electric car this January.
On a blog post early this morning on the company website, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has presented far more details of the firm's account of what occurred on John Broder's recent Model S test drive. Mr Musk's posting includes data he states was collected during the contested road trip.
Mr. Musk concluded his statement with a request that the New York Times investigate the February 8th article by Mr. Broder and determine the truth.
There are fundamentally two paths open to the New York Times at this point. Have faith in Mr. Broder and deny Musk's request for an investigation, or weigh what Mr. Musk and Mr. Broder have each said and begin asking questions.
What is at stake here? Surely it is natural not to want to see anyone hurt. It would be human for those making this decision at the paper to feel an investigation would hurt Mr. Broder, and find that unappealing.
What is the damage in not conducting an investigation? At this point there is wide public perception that The New York Times has given the Model S a woeful review. NPR this week stated, the Times gave a "damning review" of the car, while yesterday Fox Business referred to a "crash and burn" review by the paper.
While the facts of Mr Broder's journey are disputed the facts of The New York Times review are not. On September 30, 2012 the paper printed a review of the car by Bradley Berman entitled, "One Big Step for Tesla, One Giant Leap for E.V.'s." The review's two opening paragraphs suggested the Model S is the biggest game changer to the automobile since Henry Ford's Model T. Here is Mr. Berman's third paragraph:
"The 2012 Model S, a versatile sedan that succeeds the company's two-seat Roadster, is simultaneously stylish, efficient, roomy, crazy fast, high-tech and all electric. It defies the notion that electric cars are range-limited conveyances."
That was the review of the Model S printed by the New York Times. The article this week was not a review of the car. As it's author, Mr. Broder, wrote,
The test that Tesla offered was of the Supercharger, not of the Model S, which we already know is a much-praised car.
I've read many articles and comments from other readers this week. So many are now under the impression that the Model S is a range limited conveyance rather than the giant leap forward for the EV that Bradley Berman wrote of.
The New York Times can either decide that they will not consider the possibility that Mr. Broder's reporting needs to be investigated, or that they want to ensure the facts decide if Tesla's efforts over the past decade have in fact delivered a giant leap forward for the EV.
Disclosure: I am long TSLA.