Investors Hit the Brakes on Tesla

Investors sent shares of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) lower on Monday after New York Times reporter John Broder published a negative review of the Tesla Model S sedan. In the article, he outlined his test drive of the all-electric vehicle, which didn't last the ride from Washington, D.C. to New York.

Without enough juice left in the battery to get Broder to the next supercharger station, the Model S stalled and had to be towed from Branford, Conn. Now, keep in mind that Tesla's Model S has an EPS certified range of 265 miles on a full charge. This should have been more than enough mileage to travel the designated route between supercharger stations on Interstate 95. There may have been some other factors at play, however.

Road trip gone wrong
If you're wondering what impact this will have on the company's long-term prospects of sparking mass-market demand for electric vehicles, you're not alone. This was obviously something that Tesla CEO Elon Musk considered when he personally responded to the New York Times review via his Twitter account and on a live phone call with CNBC and Bloomberg TV Monday afternoon.

Later, on the call with CNBC, Musk described the writer's article as unreasonable and factually inaccurate. He went on to explain that when Tesla does media test drives such as this one, it always activates what's called detailed vehicle logging. In this specific case, when Tesla downloaded the vehicle logs after Broder's test drive, it revealed that "in fact he had not charged up to the maximum charge in the car," according to Musk. Tesla said the logs also show that Broder took an extended detour through Manhattan when he should have been en route to the next Supercharger location.

While CNBC wasn't able to get Broder to weigh in on his controversial article, the New York Times stood by its writer stating:

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.

In response to the New York Times statement, Musk told Bloomberg that the situation is not an issue of "He said, she said" but rather "It's really black and white," given the fact that Tesla has car logs to back up its claims that Broder took an extended detour, was speeding at times, and failed to charge the vehicle fully before departing on his journey.

Tesla plans to publish these car logs to further to defend its position.

Range anxiety
Battery range is one of the biggest concerns of drivers today when it comes to owning an electric car. But Tesla deserves some credit in that its Model S sedan boasts one of the highest range capabilities and the fastest charging time compared to competing electric cars.

For example, with an electric range of roughly 300 miles and a charge time of five hours, the Model S is notably ahead of rival models from Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) . The all-electric Ford Focus gets a range of just 100 miles per charge, yet it still takes about four hours for charging. Meanwhile, GM's Chevy Volt has a range of just 40 miles, though it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison since the Volt in question is a hybrid.

In many ways, sales of hybrids have helped bridge the gap between gas-powered cars and gas-free EVs. However, well-publicized PR nightmares have the potential to derail efforts for widespread EV adoption. It's no surprise, then, that Tesla and CEO Elon Musk quickly spoke out in hopes of dispelling any concerns over the Model S battery range.

The company's Supercharger network is another way that Tesla is hoping to ease drivers' fears on longer road trips. In fact, Tesla is on track to install 90 Supercharger stations on heavily traveled routes across the U.S. this year. As for now, we'll have to wait and see how the rest of this story plays out once Tesla makes the car logs from this test drive available to the public.

Either way, as a longtime believer in Tesla and its management, I plan to take advantage of dips like this in the stock price and add to my position.

Near-faultless execution has led Tesla Motors to the brink of success, but the road ahead remains a hard one. Despite progress, a looming question remains: Will Tesla be able to fend off its big-name competitors? The Motley Fool answers this question and more in our most in-depth Tesla research available for smart investors like you. Thousands have already claimed their own premium ticker coverage, and you can gain instant access to your own by clicking here now.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2013, at 9:10 AM, AdvanderMeer wrote:

    TSLA outperformed the NASDAQ by 20% the last 6 months, Two days after reaching an all time high of $40 the stock loses 4% over two days. I think you give Mr. Broder too much credit.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2013, at 3:21 PM, F2JP wrote:

    When someone driving an ICE vehicle on a long trip and makes all of these human decisions;

    1) Goes on a long trip without filling the tank all the way before leaving.

    2) Doesn’t fully fill it at fuel stops.

    3) Neglects to fill it at an overnight stop.

    4) Takes a detour adding extra miles.

    Do we blame the driver or the car when he runs out of gas????

    The New York Times Article was an obvious attempt to sensationalize for the sake of ratings.

    Clearly Common Sense Did Not Apply……

    The Times Article, This Article, and the Bandwagon Brigade all seem to be a bit desperate. Sorry you are so hard up for a source for your tripe.

    The timing, as with all the other short interest desperate attempts to stave off their inevitable losses, tells all. (RE: Bricking, etc.)

    This stunt will only prove to be a blip on Tesla’s path to Success.

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