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CNBC Transcript: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk Speaks with CNBC's "Closing Bell" Today

WHEN: Today, Monday, February 11, 2013

WHERE: CNBC's "Closing Bell"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk today on CNBC's "Closing Bell." Here is a link to embeddable video of the interview: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000147320.

All reference must be sourced to CNBC.

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MARIA BARTIROMO: CONTROVERSY TODAY AROUND ELON MUSK'S TESLA. MUSK SAYING THAT THE NEW YORK TIMES CLAIM THAT THE CAR'S BATTERY CHARGE IN COLD WEATHER IS BOGUS. TESLA'S ELON MUSK IS ON THE TELEPHONE WITH US RIGHT NOW. GOOD TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM. THANKS FOR JOINING US SIR.

ELON MUSK: ABSOLUTELY. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

BARTIROMO: NOW, OBVIOUSLY WE'VE SEEN THE ARTICLE. WHAT ARE YOU SAYING AGAINST THIS ARTICLE? THAT THEY HAVE THE WRONG INFORMATION?

MUSK: YEAH. I MEAN, ESSENTIALLY THE – WE THINK THE ARTICLE IS SOMETHING OF A SETUP. IT'S PRETTY UNREASONABLE. I DON'T WANT TO PAINT THE WHOLE NEW YORK TIMES AS BEING PROBLEMATIC, BUT I DO THINK THAT THIS WRITER AND THIS PARTICULAR ARTICLE REALLY IS MISLEADING.

BARTIROMO: BUT WHAT COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE BATTERY THEN TO OFFSET WHAT'S BEING PRINTED TODAY?

MUSK: WELL, WHEN WE DOWNLOADED OUR VEHICLE LOGS AFTER THE TEST DRIVE, IT SHOWED THAT IN FACT HE HAD NOT CHARGED UP TO THE MAXIMUM CHARGE IN THE CAR. SO ESSENTIALLY IT'S LIKE STARTING OFF A DRIVE WITH A TANK THAT'S NOT FULL. AND THEN INSTEAD OF DRIVING TO THE NEXT SUPERCHARGER LOCATION, THERE WAS AN EXTENDED DETOUR THROUGH MANHATTAN. AND IT ALSO SHOWED THAT AT TIMES HE WAS DRIVING VERY FAST. IN SOME CASES TEN MILES OR MORE ABOVE THE SPEED LIMIT. WHEN YOU DRIVE REALLY FAST, THE RANGE DECREASES. SO OBVIOUSLY, WHEN YOU FACTOR IN THOSE THREE THINGS, IT'S TO BE EXPECTED THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT FROM ONE SUPERCHARGER TO THE NEXT. AND WE EXPLICITLY WARNED HIM THAT YOU CAN'T DO THESE THINGS.

BILL GRIFFETH: RIGHT. BUT YOU KNOW, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, MR. MUSK, WHO DOESN'T DRIVE A TESLA FASTER THAN THE SPEED LIMIT? BUT THAT'S ANOTHER ISSUE. LET ME ASK YOU THOUGH, I'M INTRIGUED BY THE WORD SETUP YOU USED THERE IN YOUR FIRST ANSWER. DO YOU FEEL THIS BLOGGER WHO HAD THIS STORY WAS BEING SET UP? WAS HE SETTING IT UP? I MEAN, IS THIS A DELIBERATE FABRICATION IN YOUR VIEW OF HOW THIS WAS PORTRAYED?

MUSK: YOU NEVER KNOW FOR SURE IN THESE THINGS, BUT I WOULD SAY THAT IT'S MORE LIKELY THAN NOT. WE EXPLICITLY SAID THAT TO DO THIS TRIP HE NEEDS TO MAKE SURE HE'S FULLY CHARGED WHEN HE STARTS UP, THAT HE DOESN'T TAKE DETOURS, AND THAT HE DRIVES AT A REASONABLE SPEED. I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT SOME RIDICULOUSLY LOW SPEED. I'M TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, AT LEAST -- NOT TOO FAR ABOVE THE SPEED LIMIT. AND NONE OF THOSE THREE THINGS WERE DONE. SO IF SOMEBODY'S EXPLICITLY ASKED TO TAKE REASONABLE ACTIONS IN A TEST DRIVE AND THEN BLATANTLY DOESN'T, WHAT CONCLUSION IS ONE SUPPOSED TO REACH?

BARTIROMO: BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THESE TWO THINGS, YOU KNOW, GOING FASTER THAN THE SPEED LIMIT, TAKING A DIFFERENT ROUTE AS WHAT THE PLAN IS, IT SEEMS THAT THAT IS OPENING A SORT OF A CAN OF WORMS RIGHT THERE TO SAY IF YOU MAKE ANY DETOUR TO WHAT YOU EXPECTED, THE BATTERY'S NOT WORKING. SO I MEAN IT SEEMS VULNERABLE.

MUSK: NO.

BARTIROMO: JUST BY THOSE THREE THINGS THAT YOU'RE POINTING OUT.

MUSK: NO. I MEAN, IT'S JUST LIKE IF YOU HAD A GASOLINE CAR, IF YOU ONLY FILLED THE TANK UP PART WAY AND INSTEAD OF DRIVING TO YOUR DESTINATION YOU MEANDERED THROUGH DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN AND THROUGH ALL THE TRAFFIC AND EVERYTHING AND THEN RACED TO WHERE YOU WERE ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO GO AND YOU RAN OUT OF GAS, PEOPLE WOULD JUST THINK YOU'RE A FOOL.

BARTIROMO: SURE.

GRIFFETH: I'M INTRIGUED -- I'M INTRIGUED THAT YOU'RE RESPONDING AS YOU ARE. THIS SUGGESTS TO ME THAT YOU FEEL THAT -- I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY WE'RE LOOKING AT YOUR STOCK WHICH WAS DOWN TODAY PERHAPS ON THIS "NEW YORK TIMES" ARTICLE. BUT DO YOU FEEL THIS COULD DO DAMAGE TO THE TESLA BRAND?

MUSK: WELL, I DO. AND THE THING IS, THIS ARTICLE -- OBVIOUSLY "THE NEW YORK TIMES" HAS HUGE DISTRIBUTION AND COMES WITH A GREAT DEAL OF AUTHORITY. AND I THINK FOR THE MOST PART THAT IT'S WARRANTED. BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT IS NOT. I MEAN, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN "THE NEW YORK TIMES" HAS, WELL, PUBLISHED ARTICLES THAT ARE LESS THAN ACCURATE. AND IT'S WELL KNOWN SITUATIONS LIKE THAT. AND I THINK UNFORTUNATELY THIS IS ONE OF THOSE CASES. I DON'T WANT TO PAINT -- I DON'T THINK ALL ARTICLES IN "THE NEW YORK TIMES" ARE MISLEADING. I THINK MOST OF THEM ARE ACTUALLY QUITE ACCURATE AND THEY TAKE GREAT PAINS TO BE ACCURATE.

BARTIROMO: RIGHT. BUT IF THEY'RE MAKING A CLAIM ABOUT THE TESLA THAT IT IS NOT IN FACT INCLUDING SOME OF THESE OTHER ISSUES THAT YOU'RE POINTING OUT, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO POINT THEM OUT. IN TERMS OF THE CHARGE, HOW DO YOU KNOW HE DIDN'T CHARGE TO THE MAX?

MUSK: BECAUSE WHENEVER WE DO MEDIA TEST DRIVES WE ALWAYS TURN ON DETAILED VEHICLE LOGGING. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT IS TURNED ON FOR CUSTOMERS UNLESS WE GET THEIR EXPLICIT WRITTEN PERMISSION. SO I WANT TO BE CLEAR, WE'RE VERY SENSITIVE TO PRIVACY AND WE DON'T DO THIS WITH ANY CUSTOMER CARS UNLESS THEY GIVE US EXPLICIT LITERALLY WRITTEN PERMISSION WITH A SIGNATURE.

BARTIROMO: WE UNDERSTAND.

MUSK: BUT FOR MEDIA TEST DRIVES, AFTER WE HAD A REALLY BAD EXPERIENCE A FEW YEARS AGO WITH TOP GEAR WHERE TOP GEAR PRETENDED THAT OUR CAR RAN OUT OF CHARGE AND HAD TO BE PUSHED HOME AND THEN WE LOOKED AT THE VEHICLE LOGS AND IT TURNED OUT THAT IT HAD SOMETHING LIKE 50 MILES OF RANGE LEFT AND THEY BASICALLY JUST FAKED IT. AFTER THAT REALLY NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE –

BARTIROMO: SURE. YOU'RE GOING TO CHECK ON THINGS.

MUSK: EXACTLY. WE'RE GOING TO TRUST BUT VERIFY.

GRIFFETH: GOT IT.

BARTIROMO: ELON MUSK GOOD TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM. THANKS SO MUCH.

MUSK: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.


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