Musk extends Times feud, calls Model S review "ethics violation"

AUSTIN, Texas Sat Mar 9, 2013 6:08pm EST

Tesla Chief Executive Office Elon Musk speaks at his company's factory in Fremont, California, June 22, 2012, as the car company began delivering its Model S electric sedan. REUTERS/Noah Berger

Tesla Chief Executive Office Elon Musk speaks at his company's factory in Fremont, California, June 22, 2012, as the car company began delivering its Model S electric sedan.

Credit: Reuters/Noah Berger

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, took yet another swipe at The New York Times on Saturday, calling the newspaper's critical review of his Tesla Model S electric car a "low-grade ethics violation."

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, Musk, a co-founder of Tesla Motors in 2003, stood by his claim that Times reporter John Broder intentionally misled readers when he wrote that the Model S ran out of power sooner than expected during a drive from Washington D.C. to Boston in winter weather.

Musk, also known for founding PayPal and SpaceX, has claimed that data logged from Broder's trip showed inconsistencies with the experience Broder described. He said Saturday that he regretted providing the data and a rebuttal to Broder's review to Margaret Sullivan, The Times' public editor, before publishing it himself.

Sullivan ultimately published a column rebuking Broder for "casual and imprecise" note-taking, but stood firmly behind the veteran reporter's integrity, which Musk disputed.

"I would call it a low-grade ethics violation," Musk said. "Not a Jayson Blair-crazy-fabrication variety, but I would call it low-grade. It was not in good faith - that's an important point."

Musk has said Tesla lost $100 million in sales and canceled orders as a result of the Times' review, but showed no desire to end a running feud that has titillated the auto, tech and media industries.

The controversy has revived debate around the performance of electric cars, particularly in cold weather and over long distances.

Musk told Reuters in February that he was considering a public relations campaign to fix "misconceptions" about how the $60,000 Model S performs in cold weather. At one point following the Times review, published on February 8, Tesla's market value plummeted 13 percent, but its stock price has since recovered.

"I have no problem with negative feedback, nor do I have a problem with critical reviews," Musk said Saturday. "I have a problem with false reviews."

(Reporting By Gerry Shih; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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