Unfortunately, the biggest cleantech surprise of the month was probably a New York Times review of the East Coast Tesla Supercharger Network set up for the convenience of Model S owners. Despite many others (from CNN to Consumer Reports to Model S owners themselves) making the drive without a hitch, even in similarly horrible winter weather, New York Times reporter John Broder ended his test drive with the car on a tow truck (after some extremely questionable driving decisions… as well as notes that didn’t match up with Tesla’s own records).
As I expressed several times, media coverage of the story wasn’t of the highest quality. And while there was some hope that Tesla might come out on top due to all the attention it received from the controversy (and maybe still will in the long run), it seems the story might have initially cost Tesla tens of millions of dollars (or even around $100 million) from the negative coverage.
Well, Musk recently sat down with Bloomberg TV to discuss the story. The video published by Bloomberg TV (video below) includes this classic line right near the beginning: “Lots of people said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, you don’t battle the New York Times.’… To hell with that, I’d rather tell the truth and suffer the consequences, even if they’re negative.”
Unfortunately, it seems that the overall results (at least, as they can be quantified right now) were negative. “We did actually get a lot of cancellations as a result of the New York Times article,” Musk said. “It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, if not on the order of $100 million. So it’s not trivial”
Musk clarified that the loss wasn’t simply due to cancellations, but due to a drop in the company’s valuation. As far as orders go, he said, “there were probably a few hundred” order cancellations due to the New York Times story.
Musk didn’t go hard core on bashing John Broder, though. He said, “I don’t think it should be the end of his career. I don’t even think necessarily he should be fired. But, I do think he fudged, he fudged an article.”
Tesla Model S Production
Changing gears a bit (no pun intended), interviewer Betty Liu questioned Musk about production targets and such. Musk confirmed that the company is up to producing about 400 units of the Model S per week, and that the total target for this year is 20,000.
Musk also knocked down the myth that only early adopters are reserving the Model S. He notes that whenever a lot of Model S deliveries hit a particular area of the country, the reservations in that area actually increase. In other words, word of mouth is working well for the high-performing Model S, as one would hope.
“For every customer’s car that is delivered, we seem to sell an incremental 2 or 3 cars, as a function of that customer — on average. Some customers, it’s been like 20 cars.”
So, things are looking up.
Musk also discussed the steep learning curve that got the company up to producing 400 units of the Model S a week. He noted that they only produced 600 Tesla Roadsters a year. Getting production numbers for one week up to its previous annual output was a challenge, “a steep learning curve,” and that the company made some mistakes along the way. The assumption is that, with those mistakes out of the way, its production is now more efficient and running much more smoothly.
Congress: Not As Corrupt As We Think
Another interesting segment of the interview concerned Congress. Musk noted, “my overall impression of Washington is that it’s much less corrupt than people think it is. And thank goodness for it, because if it was corrupt, we’d be screwed. That’s not to say that there isn’t some amount of that that does go on. There actually are, I think, a preponderance of the leading House members and Senators… actually are quite idealistic, and do care about doing the right thing.”
Here’s the full video interview:
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