The New York Times vs. Tesla Motors dispute has wound down with a conciliatory tweet from Elon Musk, Tesla Motors' CEO.
"Appreciate thoughtful @Sulliview article. Faith in @nytimes restored," Musk wrote, referring to Margaret Sullivan's piece about the mistakes in John Broder's scathing New York Times review of the celebrated Tesla Model S.
In case you missed it, here's what happened:
Broder's column on the Model S, which he took for a drive between Washington D.C. and Connecticut, details his journey and acts as a warning sign to future drivers of the electric vehicle: It's not a car you can take long distances without meticulously planning your trip. Broder spent a good chunk of the drive with dangerously low battery levels before running out completely just short of the Connecticut station, and failed to charge fully at several stops along the way, which would have taken more time than he was willing to sacrifice.
Elon Musk responded on Twitter by calling Broder's article "fake," accusing the journalist of rigging the test to fail, and not plugging the vehicle in at night in sub-freezing temperatures (Tesla Motors recommends plugging in the Model S at all times when not in use, to prevent the battery from draining). He also said Broder drove around a parking lot for several minutes to try and fully drain the battery.
The New York Times reporter subsequently shifted responsibility onto the Tesla employees he had called, who pointed him to charging stations out of his range. The drive around the parking lot, he said, represented only his search for the supercharging station, which was difficult for him to find in the dark. Musk fired back against the reporter's defense with conflicting, but not entirely damning, data logs from the drive.
CNN, capitalizing on the highly-publicized debate, successfully took the Tesla out for the same drive, although notably not on one of the coldest days of the year as Broder did.
The New York Times responded by calling upon Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor, who wrote that she spent days speaking to Broder, Musk, Tesla employees and several independent sources to reach her conclusion: The review wasn't faked, but it could have been much better.
Sullivan's article, published Monday, Feb. 19, says she is convinced Broder's review was written in good faith (he didn't actually want the Model S to run out of juice as Musk accused, despite prior skepticism about the future of electric and hybrid vehicles), and that his problem lay in inaccurate measurements and poor judgment.
While acknowledging Broder's pitfalls, she didn't let Musk off the hook. "A little red notebook in the front seat is no match for digitally recorded driving logs," Sullivan writes, "which Mr. Musk has used, in the most damaging (and sometimes quite misleading) ways possible."
Musk accepted the update gracefully, as evidenced in the above tweet, but couldn't resist taking a potshot at The New York Times' Automobiles Editor James Cobb, who took three tweets to reprimand Musk for his volatile reaction to Broder's review:
"Elon, I admire your vision & respect what you have built. You promised a game-changer & Model S appears to be one. NYT had had many positive pieces about @TeslaMotors, as you know, and until this month had a good working relationship... but calling @jbrodernyt's account 'fake' was over the line & impugned reputation of a good man and a consummate pro."
"Enough sour grapes from @NYTJamesCobb (auto ed) and a few others to start a winery. Can we just bury hatchet & move on?"