Tesla has had to deal with a tragic car accident, skittish solar investors, and an inability to meet order demands. Now the company is firing back at an article they found to woefully inaccurate. Fortune contacted Tesla over the holiday weekend for comment about a man who died while traveling in his Model S with Autopilot engaged. Tesla claims Fortune made unfair and incorrect assumptions about the incident.
Tesla first argued that Fortune first mischaracterized Tesla’ SEC filing. The filing stated, “We may become subject to product liability claims, which could harm our financial condition and liquidity if we are not able to successfully defend or insure against such claims." Fortune assumed that there were already liability claims and did not ask Tesla for clarification.
Second, Fortune presumed that the accident was caused by an Autopilot failure. Tesla recently concluded that the accident was the result of a semi-tractor trailer crossing both lanes of a divided highway in front of an oncoming car. The driver, regardless of mode, would have needed to perform an emergency braking maneuver. The driver did not and was possibly even distracted by a Harry Potter movie.
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Third, the Fortune article in question claims that this accident would hurt Tesla’s investments. The company noted that its stock actually went up after the accident had been reported. Tesla stock “stock traded up, not down, confirming that not only did our investors know better, but that our own internal assessment of the performance and risk profile of Autopilot were in line with market expectations.”
Tesla appears to be the most frustrated by the fact that Fortune did not respect their request to delay the article's publication. The company stated, “The bottom line is that Fortune jumped the gun on a story before they had the facts. They then sought wrongly to defend that position by plucking boilerplate language from SEC filings that have no bearing on what happened, while failing to correct or acknowledge their original omissions and errors.”