Any way you slice it, no one is walking away from this unscathed. The Times looks like it had an agenda and Tesla’s CEO looks petulant and vindictive.
I’ve gotten a surprising amount of shit for what I wrote yesterday. Many of Tesla’s fans share Musk’s frustration and paranoia, but neither side is absolutely correct: The New York Times piece was flawed, but Musk’s claims of a malicious hit piece just don’t stand up when both sides are examined objectively.1
I wonder if Musk’s overreactions to negative press will discourage future Tesla reviews. He accused the New York Times of pretty nasty things, and Tesla fans are going after them hard. (Some of what he wrote might even be legally actionable, although the Times probably wouldn’t pursue it.)
The Times will be fine, but what if Musk’s target was a smaller publication without as strong of a reputation? What if it was TIME? The Columbus Dispatch? Car and Driver? Motor Trend? His inflammatory, defamatory post would have been… a malicious hit piece, potentially devastating to their reputation.
If I were running a medium-sized publication, I’d stay far away from Tesla after this explosion.
And if Musk succeeds in intimidating many publications into avoiding publishing negative comments about Tesla’s cars, the credibility of positive Tesla reviews becomes questionable.
As far as I can tell, the two biggest problems seem to be:
- Some of Tesla’s tech-support representatives are poorly informed and gave bad or conflicting advice to the reporter (ineffective battery-conditioning instructions, many of which sounded like common rechargeable-battery myths; turning off cruise control and fluctuating speed to get more range, which obviously conflicts with basic physics; failing to diagnose the flatbed-truck 12V parking-brake issue).
- The reporter was imprecise about some of his numbers (47 minutes vs. 58 minutes of charging, 45 vs. 54 miles per hour) that were published as if they were precisely recorded.