New York Times Cedes Model S Range Dispute To Tesla

After sticking to its guns for over a week, the New York Times has backed down and declared the Tesla Model S running-out-of-juice report by John Broder during a Washington-to-Boston trip to be no longer reliable.

This news was delivered by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a follow up blog post yesterday to his last presentation of evidence against Broder. Musk wrote the Times’ public editor said “John Broder had ‘problems with precision and judgment,’ ‘took casual and imprecise notes’ and made ‘few conclusions that are unassailable.’

And even if Broder had been fastidious to the Nth degree, Tesla’s take on the highly publicized dispute was verified by other media outlets as well as “several” private owners of Tesla Model S who all undertook to duplicate the allegedly fated run.

“A debt of appreciation is also owed to other media outlets,” wrote Musk, “such as CNN, CNBC, and Consumer Reports, who repeated The New York Times test drive at normal highway speeds and comfortable cabin temperatures without ever running out of range.”

The Times was also flooded with hundreds of letters by owners of the Model S who showed their support for “Tesla and the electric car revolution,” Musk said.

“The bottom line is that the Model S combined with Supercharging works well for a long road trip, even in a cold, snowy winter,” wrote Musk. “Nonetheless, we will keep increasing the number of Superchargers, improving the software in the car (via over the air updates), and the technology behind the Supercharger itself.”

While it was in full swing, the Times vs. Tesla dispute was also temporary fodder for the pundits to practice their punditry, some of which gave passing attempts at objectivity, then proceeded to emphasize Broder’s side, and say such things as “all-electric cars are (basically) dead on arrival.”

True enough EVs are new technology, yet in their infancy, but it would appear reports of their death (in the cradle) have been greatly exaggerated.

UPDATE: Feb. 26, 2013: We were contacted by the New York Times explaining that despite the apparently unequivocal interpretation Elon Musk made in writing his blog post which was the basis for this report, the Times does not in fact “cede” the dispute to Tesla. The write-up cited by Musk by the public editor was explained to be her own opinion, and not representative of an official retraction of Broder’s report. Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s clarification was pointed out to us as a note she briefly wrote Feb. 21 in the Public Editor’s Journal. It reads:

One addendum, for the sake of clarity: As public editor, I speak only for myself. My opinions about what happened during and after the Tesla Model S road test, expressed in my Monday blog post, are not those of The Times.

Commenting on this, Times Automobiles Deputy Editor Norman Mayersohn said he knew of no change in the paper’s position or support for John Broder’s article.

“Inside, I’ve heard nothing but complete support, and in meetings at the top levels on the news side of the paper, we’ve had no doubts expressed,” Mayersohn said in an e-mail to HybridCars.com. “Tesla has not released any data, only their graphic representations of the feed from the car, so there’s really no basis for any change of that viewpoint.”

The official statement from the Times’ Eileen Murphy, Mayersohn observed, reads:

The Times‘s Feb. 10 article recounting a reporter’s test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was “fake” is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.

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