By on February 26, 2013

Tesla CEO Elon Musk found the perfect scapegoat for lost Tesla sales and a 13 percent drop of the company’s stock: John Broder of the New York Times. Musk told Reuters that “Tesla has lost about $100 million in sales and canceled orders due to the Times story, which said the sedan ran out of battery power sooner than promised during a chilly winter test drive from Washington D.C. to Boston.”  Musk should look in the mirror if he needs a scape goat.

To pile on more, Musk told the wire that “between $100 million and $200 million of Tesla’s drop in market value was due to the Times article.” Since the Times’ February 8 story, Tesla shares have fallen 13 percent.

“We have seen a few hundred cancellations that are due to the NYT piece and slightly lowered demand in the U.S. Northeast region,” Musk emailed Reuters.

Reuters carefully raises the possibility that either Musk’s math is wrong, or the losses in sales are steeper. Says the wire: “To lose $100 million in car sales, assuming a $100,000 price per vehicle, Tesla would have to sell 1,000 fewer cars than expected.”

Musk says that a “Tesla team and I are brainstorming this week how to correct the misperception that they have created in the market about how well our car performs in cold weather. That too, will take money and time.”

TTAC says and said: Musk has nobody else to blame than himself. It was Musk who started the Great Twitter War that still reverberates through the interwebs. The Times story had received zero traction in the media until Musk twittered the lid off it, and it exploded. Musk is a loose cannon, and the easiest way the Tesla team can start changing the perceptions in the market is to take away Musk’s Twitter account.  However, it may be too late. The spat between a West Coast tycoon and the New York paper told a much wider public that “maybe, this EV stuff is still not ready for prime time,” as more than one commenter commented.

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71 Comments on “Musk Blames NY Times For $100 Million Loss, Should Blame Himself...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    If Tesla customers are basing their purchase decisions on NY Times car reviews, then Tesla has much bigger problems than I thought.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Whaddaya expect, Musk blaming himself for his company’s woes? No self respecting CEO would do that, Musk included. It’s always someone else’s fault. Then they grant themselves huge stock options, bonuses and/or salary raises as the company loses millions.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    The boy can’t help it. Musk was already tweeting about how he’d ‘help’ Boeing fix their bad battery design. They love that.

    At least Musk’s secret surveillance didn’t uncover shorting of Tesla stock by Broder prior to the printing of the road test. Because that would be wrong. And inaccurate.

  • avatar

    “Tesla team and I are brainstorming this week how to correct the misperception that they have created in the market about how well our car performs in cold weather. That too, will take money and time.”

    How about another media road trip, only this one will be from Duluth to International Falls and back, before the end of winter. The trip is 162 miles each way. The Tesla Model S comes in 160, 230 and 300 mile range versions, so the trip from Duluth to the Canadian border should be just outside the range of the 160 mile version and within the range of the other two battery packs. Give all three models to journalists for the trip and let them see what they have to do to make the round trip in severe cold weather conditions.

    I think that would be a better, admittedly more severe, real world test than something in the D.C. to Boston, or LA to Vegas, corridors stocked with supercharging stations.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is a fictional (unrealized) loss – the headline is misleading. I don’t see any point in squawking about it.

    By the way, Musk’s behavior matches the wacky industry he’s in; it doesn’t bother me at all. He doesn’t act this way as head of SpaceX.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      SpaceX, meanwhile, is about to launch its second resupply ship to the International Space Station. That Musk – what a moron.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Well, it can be said that a certain amount of hubris is an inevitable part of the mix that makes an entrepreneur…
        If Musk is using the NYT as a scapegoat for other shortcomings in his business, that’s a disservice to those in his operation who work hard and really believe in what they’re trying to accomplish.
        The Model S is a beautiful, fast and great handling car by any standard – but it’s a risky venture that should be tempered by a little humility on the part of its “father”. PR is a measurable part of any product’s reputation, especially when you’re trying to change something as inured as the personal automobile.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Broder’s experience was likely to be typical of cold weather travel… extra range anxiety.

    Phil Lebeau, of CNBC, ran a similar trip a few days later, in warmer weather. I haven’t listened to his full report but I looked at the times on key tweets.

    His trip time from arrival at Newark, DE, to his arrival in “Suburban Boston,” which I have arbitrarily assigned as Newton, was 150% of the time that Google Maps says the trip should take. The extra time required would have allowed me to eat 2 to 3 lunches in a full service restaurant or about 12 fast-food meals(*)

    CNN also repeated the trip a few days later, also in warmer weather. They reported Tesla told them to keep the speed down and keep the cabin heat on low. They had “range anxiety(**),” anyway.

    Even a “successful” trip points up the fact that an EV purchaser must be willing to accept significant compromises to indulge his fetish. Personally, I can’t see shelling out $80-100K for a luxury car that I couldn’t actually use all the time, which has 400+ horsepower that would be irrelevant the way I’d have to drive and my wife wouldn’t find “chilly” an attractive quality in any car.

    * – 3 if the service was quick and if the service was so slow I could only eat 2 lunches, I’d try to avoid those places in the future.

    ** – The one thing I thank Bob Lutz for… a concise way of describing the anxiety of EV power management and planning. He may not have coined the phrase but he did bring it to my attention.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    The Masters Of The Universe are never wrong. The game is always about throwing someone else to the wolves.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Taking the Twitter account away would definitely be a huge start. Social media drama rarely benefits anyone but the spectators.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I would guess that the majority of $100,000 cars aren’t great for taking real world trips. If the 1%ers are going to buy flashy, (relatively) impractical cars anyway, I would rather that they buy Teslas to contribute to the advancement of the state of the art.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      ?? I would say the majority of $100,000 cars are sedans from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. They are stunningly capable at taking real-world trips.

      They are orders of magnitude more capable at real-world trips such as this one that the Times’ reporter took than is a Tesla S.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The sales are falling because any article written on the subject, even if the car has a “successful” test drive, still cannot help but remind people that EVs have a very real range issue, and a lot of prospective buyers probably realize they aren’t wealthy enough to have an expensive EV to show off as a fashion/policy statement as well as a nice real car for when they need unlimited mobility.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Two observations:

    One, Elon: Dude, let it go. Every time this story starts to sink away you dig up its fetid body for all to see and poke at. Let it go.

    Two, as initial built up demand wanes one has to wonder if Tesla sales will hit a brick wall on its own. There are only so many $60K+ car buyers (and a majority being sold today are $85K plus) and only so many of them who are EV enthusiasts (just ask anyone else with skin in the game). Also, as seen with other EVs out there, if your $5 million luxury condo in NYC won’t permit you to run a 240V line to your assigned parking spot in the common garage area to charge your EV, you’re kind of SOL. Park on the street in an urban area? You’re even more SOL. Some people are going to find that out (just ask Nissan what happened to a lot of their pre-orders)

    The reality is the NYT exaggerated as much as Tesla has overstated how the average slob can drive a Tesla S just like any other car. That simply is not true. As it has been sussed out you need to plan ahead, be prepared to wait, more so than with a gas powered car, and if the weather is excessively hot or excessively cold you better park, preferably indoors, and hope there is a charger around, preferably 240V or a Supercharger because 120V won’t cut it.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Sell the silly cars to the French. They have nuclear power, high gas prices, and self-righteous elite leeches at the top of their society that would love to demonstrate their superiority with an opulent golf kart.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      So USA is better than France because it has cheap gas then?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The USA has cheap gas because it is better than France.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Indeed, CJ.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Gas is cheaper in Saudi Arabia than in the US. Does that make Saudi Arabia better by your logic?

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Why is it that leftists only want to compare developed economies of western nations when they’re trying to overturn the US constitution, but they’ll bring in places drowning in oil to justify redistributionist fuel taxes? Integrity would allow you to not have to ask questions you know the irrelevant answers to.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            CJ, what are you on about? You were the on to state clearly and explicitly
            “The USA has cheap gas because it is better than France”

            There are two examples that spring to mind of countries with plentiful oil, one has a high gas price (Norway) and one has a cheap gas price (Saudi Arabia). I think your statement was just bizarre to say that the value of a country (whether it is “good” or “bad”) is related to its gas price. I expect you might say that mobility is a good and higher prices (due to taxes) impedes that. That would be true at some level, but I don`t think Norwegians (or other Europeans) lack for mobility, especially since their countries are much smaller than the US.
            What does this have to do with the constitution? I don`t recall seeing the freedom to travel is enshrined explicitly.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      My apologies, I should have called troll instead of rising to the bait…

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Yup – death to the liberal elite gay leftist socialist cheese eating coastal snobs who hate the Constitution! And I hope GM goes out of business. Excuse me while I go pay my Chase mortgage and check out my JP Morgan investments. And if my farm subsidy check is messed up by the flat footed goombas in Washington D.C. – my damn head is gonna explode. Pass the ammunition mother, here comes the taxman.

        /facepalm

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I am perplexed at the overwhelming majority of opinions that seem to think Mr. Musk is an idiot, just another big mouth car exec who has learned to suck taxpayers money dry. Here, especially on TTAC!
    Why? Because an electric car, built by a company run by a man who is also putting rockets into space, cannot go as far as a gas car as proved in a somewhat dodgy “review” performed by a journalist who probably does not know how to put batteries into a common flashlight.
    Personally, I would support and believe the guy with real, measurable, technical achievements.
    Mr. Broder’s writing was negative and measurably damaging so I am struggling to understand how Elon is wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      He is wrong because he massively aided the publicizing of a negative review of his product. Calling out a reviewer, publicly, who is totally wrong, is one thing – calling out a reviewer who in his review brings up many, many salient negative points about your product, is wrong – or should I say stupid.

      SpaceX is a completely different thing – a totally different business. They are not selling tens of thousands of consumer products to tens of thousands of consumers, any of whom can decide, completely on his or her own hook, not to buy the product.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        So Elon is wrong (an idiot) to speak out when he feels the review was inaccurate? My point is that if it comes to figuring out who is telling the truth then look to the person with the sack full of achievements, not who is the best publicist…

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          Beerboy – there is such a thing as “bad press”. Elon should have been a big enough boy to realize that. That’s all everyone is saying. And for that – yes, Elon acted like a dumbass.

          And Twitter? Juvenile to start with.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Beerboy12: “My point is that if it comes to figuring out who is telling the truth then look to the person with the sack full of achievements, not who is the best publicist…”

          I guess I’d look to the guy who was actually driving the car way slower than the flow of traffic while freezing his buns off, especially when the guy with the tweets and the publicist has offered data that says, “that guy was drivng the car way slower than the flow of traffic while freezing his buns off.”

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Nobody wrote that Musk is an idiot.

      Many do seem to regard his judgement in this situation as poor.

      Broder’s writing was inaccurate only in a minor detail (cruise control speed*) and he had a negative experience with the car. You expect him to put a happy face on this? This was reporting, not paid advertising. Tesla has admitted the Superchargers are too far apart and it’s clear that Broder was given bad advice by Tesla on at least two separate occasions.

      “Measurably dmaaging” would be ani interesting allegation to see you prove. The stock fell a little, then started to rise again, reached the previous close and then fell again, as pointed out on TTAC, when Musk tweeted about it.

      It took its real dump a couple of days later when the results of Q4 were announced, which had nothing to do with NYT coverage after those books were closed.

      * The way I see the logs, it’s an extremely minor point. He almost certainly did set it to 54mph as he said, you can see where he ran in the low 50′s for a time, but probably couldn’t stand the tension of all the overtaking traffic and pushed it up to 60 – still slow for that stretch of road – but failed to mention that adjustment in the article. For this he should get 40 lashes with a wet noodle. He was still going excruciatingly slowly. Being required to travel at 60 mph in the car rather makes a joke of the 400+ horsepower. I get 52 mpg in my Prius when keeping up with traffic and passing most of the trucks. I could get well over 60 mpg if I slowed down to 50-55mph. That won’t happen; I’m going to be content to outrun all the 400 hp Teslas on the road and spend a little more money on gas.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        my comments are all opinion and I am not a lawyer… I would not even start to try to prove anything. I assume that anyone with some common sense can work out that a bad review is going to hurt the product or company in question whether they deserve it or not. I also assume that if the damage is noticeable therefore is measurable, how to measure that is not for the likes of a simple fella like me.
        I believe deciding how inaccurate the review is depends on who you believe and therein lies the basis of my point.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Your comments strike me as those of one who didn’t actually read Broder’s article.

          What, exactly, was “dodgy” about that review? Broder made some mistakes that are directly related to the fact that the EV is not a regular ICE car and he ran into trouble on account of it. To those of us paying attention, this is not a surprise.

          The other “successful” trips along that corridor are at best slow and, at worst, slow and nerve-wracking. The CNN people mentioned “range anxiety” and they drove up in warmer weather and with better coaching than Broder got.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I don’t think anyone is accusing him of being an idiot but he certainly does come across as defensive and petulant by responding via Twitter to an article that was not really on anyone’s radar to begin with. Criticizing the critic rarely works.

      Concerns about the vehicle aside I question the stability of a company that loses hundreds of millions of dollars as the result of a single second-rate car review.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I think he is an idiot for being on Twitter in the first place, and then using it to start b!tchfests as if he is Justin Beiber. Twitter is for entertainers and sports stars to generate drama for their fans, and for teenagers to generate drama for themselves. He has no reason to be on there twittering except that he thinks he is some new-age cyber-nerd CEO that runs his company like a software developer. I think this gives the impression that his cars will be as buggy as most software is, and once you get past all the “wow gee whiz my sexy new electric car goes so good with my iPhone” hype, real car buyers will not seriously consider one of his cars over traditional manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        What new, small company like Tesla is stable? In fact I would have a hard time describing GM as stable and they are huge and old. Also look at the pounding Toyota took with some unintended acceleration bad press they received not so long ago. That would have killed Tesla so I am trying to understand how you are all surprised.

        • 0 avatar
          azmtbkr81

          It is all about perception, even if your company is one late utility payment away from folding the idea is to project an image of stability to customers at all costs.

          Why would I as a customer take a chance on a $100k car if I though Tesla was one hack review away from collapse? I mean it isn’t like the factory burned down, it’s just the opinion of one relatively insignificant journalist.

          Musk should have ignored the negative press or rebutted the perceived problem through a factual and professional press release. Business 101.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Beerboy12,

          It’s not so much company stability as it is Tesla’s CEO lacking the maturity or common sense to not step in PR soft, stinky brown material.

          It’s not about him being stupid – it’s clear that he’s anything but that, but he lacks sound judgement and allowed (seemingly) his ego to drive his actions.

          I hope he’s successful because more competition is great for consumers.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    From the beginning, Tesla should have quoted the range of this car at 80 MPH, with the A/C running on a hot day. And at 80 MPH on a frigid day with the heat blasting. All the other range estimates are irrelevant and could be covered with “if you’re not doing this, your range will be better.”

  • avatar
    thelaine

    That blonde would totally be with Elon if he wasn’t a billionaire. Mostly because of his mellow, easygoing personality and his eco-friendly lifestyle. Shooting rockets into space for the entertainment of millionaires actually sucks carbon right out of the atmosphere. Except when Al Gore goes. He needs an extra rocket or two,if you know what I’m sayin’. Not trying to be insensitive. I could use a little treadmill time myself.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I think you have confused Elon Musk with Richard Branson. Musk’s stuff goes to the ISS and eventually deep space; Branson’s selling suborbital flights for wealthy tourists.

      Gotta keep your eccentric billionaires straight. :)

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Damn it gslippy, I figured it out right after I sent it. Killed the whole stupid joke. I knew someone was going to bust me for it. Thank you for not crushing me on it after all the lame sarcastic electric car comments I have made. (Don’t get me started on that damned International Waste Station. Talk about grumpy taxpayer thread hijacking…)

        • 0 avatar
          gslippy

          @thelaine:

          I am a big fan of space flight and exploration, but IMO the ISS has been a waste except for what it’s taught us in terms of managing a huge international multiyear project.

          As a conservative, even some of my friends look askance at me when it comes to my Leaf. I understand.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            I always enjoy your comments gslippy. I bitch incessantly about government subsides and waste and debt but have nothing against electric cars themselves. To each his own. (I have an old Jeep CJ-7 that is about as impractical a piece of sht as you could ever imagine. It runs on money. I live in a glass house on this issue.)

            I love damned near all cars, whatever motivates them, and I think the technology in electric cars is very cool. If they were practical for me, I would not hesitate to consider one. Still, so many of the EV owners take it so seriously, they just bring ridicule on themselves. I’m sorry, but the ones who think they deserve a taxpayer handout because they are saving the planet can get to be a bit much. Still, I consider it to all be in good fun. It’s just cars.

            As far as the ISS and the Godforsaken space shuttle, I’m afraid I consider them to be a massive waste of money. Please tell me what the hell we have done on the ISS that we could not have done better with unmanned vehicles. I am not at all against space exploration and am not arguing against the moon landings, but at this point, humans in space make no sense. There is no scientific return on investment. They don’t do a damned thing up there but try to survive until we bring them back. At least let them have sex up there or something. I think they are just pooping into bags and working out on the treadmill.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          Well, maybe we could have Musk boost a big-ass asteroid-hunting spyglass to the ISS to be ‘manned’ 24/7. A heroic mission, indeed. Of course, we’d have to get Musk to build a nearly indestructible Space Shuttle, manned with laid-off oil drillers (who Musk had put out of work) to split that melon. It all comes together.

          Maybe I should “twitter trim” some of my posts…

  • avatar
    daviel

    I wonder how the blonde would like a 160 mile test drive through Minnesota winter with no heater?

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    As if on cue with yesterday’s BMW alternative-power thread, I saw a BMW 1-Series ActiveE parked on the street yesterday.

    I didn’t know much about the car, but apparently it’s a spin-off of the Mini E project. The car has liquid heating and liquid cooling for the batteries, which apparently is a result of the cold weather testing they did with the Mini E, re: range-anxiety. I wonder how this compares to Tesla’s testing experience.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Tesla builds cars like Apple would… that is, not with as much foresight and a ton more hubris than BMW would have when designing/building cars. Heck, the owners will probably be on to the next thing in 3-5 years anyway. The Roadster was a “concept” and the Model S is an “early adopter” product. Its owners pay the premium to drive the “new hotness”, and should fully realize that there will be issues with the user experience.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “Tesla builds cars like Apple would… that is, not with as much foresight and a ton more hubris than BMW would have when designing/building cars. Heck, the owners will probably be on to the next thing in 3-5 years anyway. ”

        Non-user-serviceable? :)

        That said, it’s more common for me to see 6-8 year old PC laptops than it is to see 6-8 year old Macbooks.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Everybody knows Ellon never goes full retard:

    http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/relationship-issues/millionaire-starter-wife
    http://www.tmz.com/2012/08/21/elon-musk-divorce-paypal-talulah-riley-settlement/

  • avatar
    05lgt

    BS,
    I too am disapointed that Elon refuses to rise to the bait and argue directly on TTAC. That would be so great.

  • avatar
    AFX

    Two things I wanted to say:

    1. Saying Musk must know what he’s doing in the electric car business just because he’s launched rockets into space is really stretching it. The Russians launched sputnik in 1957. That’s 56 years of various countries having sucessfull space programs. In that 56 years how many successfull mainstream electric cars have there been ?. Uh huh, that’s what I thought. Even the RUSSIANS with their quality of cars can launch something into space.

    2. That plaid-on-plaid look he’s got going on in that photo has to be the pinnacle of billionaire plaid coolness. That’s even more plaid than Herb from WKRP !. The only way plaid could get any cooler is if Jackie Stewart sat in an early Porsche 928 with the Op-Art interior.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      “That’s 56 years of various countries having sucessfull space programs. In that 56 years how many successfull mainstream electric cars have there been ?.”

      The better question is this:
      Q: In 56 years, how many private companies have launched cargo to the ISS?
      A: One – Space Exploration Technologies

      There is a reason they call it ‘rocket science’.

      As for the second question, you’ve answered it. Only Tesla has done this, since – as you know – they’re onto their second mainstream electric car. I don’t know what your definition of ‘successful’ is, but in 2009 it was GM and Chrysler that went bankrupt, not Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I suppose you could make the argument that the car is successful because they sold a few but the point of Tesla Motors would be to make money selling cars. That is not so successful and that is the more important measurement (ask the investors if you don’t believe me).

    • 0 avatar
      AFX

      I should have said Jackie Stewart in a Tartan interior Lotus Esprit, my bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Our German rocket scientists were better than the ones the Russians captured.

      Musk is the ultimate engineering nerd..

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Sooo, Really Rich and Uber-Cool Smart Tesla Dude is dressed like a Central Casting version of a used car salesman . . . why? Sure glad he hired someone with a better sense of style to design the car.


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