It's not often that the New York Times has its work called fake, but when the future of an emerging industry is at stake — in this case, electric vehicles — things can get dramatic rather quickly.
Yesterday, we referenced the story of New York Times reporter John Broder. He attempted to test the range of 2013 Tesla Model S electric vehicle and got stranded when the vehicle reportedly ran out of juice before hitting the range limit. Not long after, a clearly irritated Tesla founder Elon Musk took to Twitter to dispute the New York Times report and called it "fake."
In a series of tweets, Musk wrote, "NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn't actually charge to max & took a long detour… Tesla blog coming soon detailing what actually happened on Broder's NYTimes 'range test'. Also lining up other journalists to do same drive."
Musk then went on financial news network CNBC to add detail to his claims, saying, "Essentially, we think the article is a bit of a setup and is unreasonable… it showed in fact [Broder] had not charged up to the maximum charge in the car. It's like starting off a drive with a tank that's not full."
In response to Musk's allegations, the New York Times issued a statement saying, "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."
Since then, both parties have been silent, but this morning former New York Times Assistant Managing Editor Jim Roberts, a widely respected veteran of the journalism community, tweeted the following statement, "I don't know Elon Musk. I DO know John Broder. I trust every word of his Tesla Model S review." That doubling down from the New York Times team on the validity of the report would appear to raise the stakes in the dispute over the review.
Following the dustup, Tesla's stock briefly dropped by 4.4 percent. Now the ball is in Musk's court as the business community and electric vehicle fans alike wait for him to produce the vehicle data he promised on Monday.