If you weren’t on Twitter yesterday, well, you picked a good day to stay away. However, if public battles between an automaker and the media is your thing, coupled with exasperating (and disturbing) displays of tribalism from the manufacturer’s fan base, Monday was a gold mine.
The social media brouhaha was a result of Consumer Reports‘ less-than-glowing review of the Tesla Model 3, which was found to have the worst braking performance of any contemporary car in the publication’s testing catalog. As Tesla disciples circled the wagon (one created a list of “bad journalists”), Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded to CR‘s findings.
Actually, Tesla disagreed with CR‘s findings even before publication. When contacted about the braking results, a spokeswoman cited a panic stop distance roughly 20 feet shorter than what CR averaged after several tests of both a Model 3 test vehicle and a privately owned loaner. Tesla claims 133 feet, CR says 152 feet.
(Note: this isn’t the first time Tesla and Consumer Reports sparred over a review.)
In her response, the Tesla spokeswoman made the puzzling claim that, “Unlike other vehicles, Tesla is uniquely positioned to address more corner cases over time through over-the-air software updates, and it continually does so to improve factors such as stopping distance.”
Musk made a similar claim in the wake of the report, responding on Twitter to a certain shareholder.
“Very strange,” Musk tweeted. “Model 3 is designed to have super good stopping distance & others reviewers have confirmed this. If there is vehicle variability, we will figure it out & address. May just be a question of firmware tuning, in which case can be solved by an OTA software update.”
He continued: “Even if a physical upgrade is needed to existing fleet, we will make sure all Model 3’s having amazing braking ability at no expense to customers.”
Responding to another Twitter user, the CEO said, “The CR braking result is inconsistent with other reviewers, but might indicate that some Model 3’s have longer braking distances than others. If so, we will address this at our expense. First time we’ve seen anything like this.”
Claiming that CR tested an “early production car,” Musk stated that he’ll request the publication test a newer example. That said, the CEO claimed lengthy stopping distances could indeed “be fixed with a firmware update” that alters the car’s anti-lock braking algorithm.
“Will be rolling that out in a few days,” he tweeted. “With further refinement, we can improve braking distance beyond initial specs.”
As parts guru Bozi Tatarevic (one of the bad journalists, who is not to be trusted) states, the Model 3 uses an electromechanical Bosch iBooster front brake system, which is basically a hydraulic system with an electric motor that helps generate brake pressure in a speedy manner. An over-the-air update that tweeks the system’s electronic control unit could shorten panic stop distances. Maybe. We’ll see.
It’ll be interesting to see what CR uncovers when it gets its hands on another Model 3. In the meantime, we’ll place the publication’s findings on a higher pedestal than the emotions of a rabid fanbase.