In the wake of reporter John Broder's unflattering and highly controversial account of an East Coast road trip in Tesla's Model S sedan, the car maker's CEO, Elon Musk, demanded that The New York Times "please investigate this article and determine the truth."
Margaret Sullivan, the newspaper's public editor, has done just that.
After reading hundreds of passionate emails from Tesla enthusiasts and speaking with Broder, Musk, two Tesla employees, other journalists, an involved tow-truck driver, his dispatcher and a Model S owner, Sullivan weighed in Monday.
Her piece, titled "Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test" appeared on the Times' website. In the piece, Sullivan quotes extensively from a reader who took Broder to task for failing to read the owner's manual and neglecting to plug the vehicle in overnight.
Sullivan cleared Broder of any attempt to purposely sabotage the test drive, undertaken to experience Tesla's new Supercharger stations. Broder wrote that the all-electric Model S lost range faster than expected and ran out of power, forcing him to call a tow truck that rescued him from a Connecticut exit ramp.
"I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it," wrote Sullivan of Broder. "Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture -- when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight -- were certainly instrumental in this saga's high-drama ending."
Sullivan said that Broder, a veteran journalist, took "what seems to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey" and said Broder was unaware that Tesla has the ability to remotely monitor things like cabin temperature, state of charge and cruise control.
"A little red notebook in the front seat is no match for digitally recorded driving logs, which Mr. Musk has used, in the most damaging (and sometimes quite misleading) ways possible, as he defended his vehicle's reputation," wrote Sullivan. "I could recite chapter and verse of the test drive, the decisions made along the way, the cabin temperature of the car, the cruise control setting and so on. I don't think that's useful here. People will go on contesting these points -- and insisting that they know what they prove -- and that's understandable. In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable."
Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks could not be reached for comment Monday.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.