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Data is Tesla’s secret weapon against negative Model S reviews

If you’re going to fib about your experiences test driving a car, it’s probably best to make sure your entire trip isn’t being logged first.

Earlier this week, New York Times writer John Broder detailed his experiences driving Tesla’s Model S, a car he wasn’t crazy about. Tesla CEO Elon Musk wasn’t pleased with the story, which he said didn’t mesh with information the company collected during the test drive as well as reports from just about every other journalist (not to mention Motor Trends).

Now, Musk and Tesla are striking back with the most powerful tool of all: cold, hard data.

In a post on the Tesla Motors blog yesterday, Musk took apart Broder’s claims one by one, using maps, charts, and other bits of visualized data the company collected to back up his case.

Here are a few examples:

  • In his story, Broder says his car ran out of juice mid-trip, forcing him to call a flatbed truck for rescue. That’s all lies, says Musk, who pointed to data that said that Broder’s test car never ran out of energy at any point.
  • Musk also notes Broder’s erratic and often inane charging behavior, which the Tesla CEO says was an “obvious violation of common sense.”
  • Broder wrote that he set his test car’s cruise control to 54 mph during the trip, but Tesla’s data says that never happened.

Musk says that the company started paying closer attention to media test drives after a 2008 snafu with the BBC car show Top Gear, which Tesla claimed misrepresented its experiences with the Model S. (Musk took the show to court for libel but lost the case in 2011.)

“While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story,” Musk said. “When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts,” referring to Broder.

The whole rebuttal post is worth reading, if only so you can get an idea of just how much data Tesla logs when it drops keys in the hands of journalists.


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