Data does the dirty work as Tesla takes it to the Times

Tesla escalates its battle with the New York Times, but the carmaker's data dump raises as many questions as answers

Well, Teslagate shows no signs of slowing down. I have to say I'm not really sure it's worthy of all this attention or if it's just a slow news week and geeks are genetically predisposed to be obsessed about something.

In case you're just tuning in, here's a quick summary: Last Sunday, New York Times writer John Broder published a scathing account of his trip in a cutting-edge all-electric wondercar, the Tesla Model S. Tesla CEO Elon Musk called him a liar on Twitter, and a few days later posted partial logs that appear to contradict some of the claims in the writer's story. Broder then responded, countering many of the CEO's comments, but not enough to quell the angry hordes of electric vehicle geeks looking to burn him at the stake.

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Ball's in your court, Elon.

As the comments section to my original post shows, there's a lively debate about what really happened on that long drive from D.C. to Connecticut, as well as a lot of simmering mistrust of the New York Times and journalism in general.

It's the data, stupid

Musk posted his data on Wednesday, a few hours after my first post on this topic appeared. Several readers thought I had jumped the gun and come to my conclusions too soon. While it's always nice to have more information at one's disposal when writing a story, it's not always possible to wait for that data to appear. I did ask Musk via Twitter when to expect that blog post; I never got a response. I have a hard deadline every Wednesday, so I went with what I had.

Even so, after seeing Musk's response, I cannot agree with readers who feel it validates his claim that Broder's review was "fake" or the writer had a hidden agenda to slam the Tesla. I can say that it raises some questions about what happened during Broder's ride and when it happened.

Did Broder drive faster than he claimed to? Looks like it, though not faster than most people drive. Did he turn the heat down exactly when he said he did? No, he did it a few miles later. Did he take some small side trips and appear to get lost in a parking lot for a short period of time? Yes, he did. Did he charge the car as much as he could have? No, he did not. You can read Broder's response to see his reasons why; it's too complicated to get into here.

What the data doesn't tell

None of that makes his story a lie, fake, or a deliberate hit piece, nor does it change Broder's essential point that drivers of all-electric cars, even those as amazingly cool as the Tesla Model S, are in for bigger challenges than the rest of us piloting gas guzzlers.

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