Rick Ibsen played a big part in a New York Times reporter's ill-fated Tesla Model S drive up the East Coast. He was the one who came to the car's rescue when it apparently ran out of power and stopped working on a Connecticut exit ramp. But until I spoke with him a few minutes ago, he was unaware that this had exploded into a huge controversy.
In fact, Ibsen, who works for Rogers Automotive & Towing in Milford, Conn., had not yet seen reporter John Broder's story about the drive, nor did he know that his picture was on the Times' website. (He said Broder was supposed to send him an email with the link, but he never got it. Broder's had a busy week and I've been guilty of this myself, so I'll give him a pass.)
But Ibsen, a veteran tow truck driver, was kind enough to take time out of his day to tell me more about his rescue of the stranded Model S. And for the record, he told me he didn't get the sense that this was something Broder wanted to happen, or tried to make happen.
On that late January day when the Model S required a tow, it was "somewhere between 0 and 10 degrees outside," Ibsen said, so both of them were cold and miserable.
"It didn't appear that the gentleman driving the car wanted it to not work," Ibsen told me. "I don't think he had any desire to stand freezing on the side of the road."
Much of what Ibsen told me echoed what his towing company coworker said earlier today. When he arrived, the Model S was stuck in park and its electric parking brake was on, making it very hard to get onto the flatbed. There was a way to jump the car's 12-volt battery, but that wasn't working, he said.
Now, the car's touch screen center console was working, and Ibsen was on the phone with a Tesla employee in California who was walking him through a process to get the brake off, but he wasn't getting the messages or menus on the screen that the employee said he was supposed to.
"We put the jumper box on to get the 12 volt battery working, but he said if it was completely dead it wouldn't work," Ibsen said. He said the Tesla employee was helpful but understandably frustrated.
Eventually, through a 45-minute process, the car was dragged onto a flatbed. It would stay on the truck charging once it got to a nearby station until it had enough juice to take it out of park and to put the parking brake on. Broder said in his story that that took about 25 minutes.
Ibsen said the whole ordeal was quite tricky. He's towed exotic cars before, and you can often find guides on the Internet on how to tow those. No such luck with the Model S, he said.
Ibsen and I ended our chat with him saying he'd look at some of the stories on the Internet about the now-infamous Tesla drive. He wouldn't say it was the hardest tow he's ever taken part in, but it was certainly tricky.
Photo credit John Broder/New York Times. Used with permission.