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Nikola suffers a setback

Nikola suffers a setback

NZ Truck & Driver News

 October 2020   

For months everything seemed to be on the up and up for Nikola, the US electric truck startup that looked to be racing ahead of the much-more-famous Tesla.

And then, suddenly, from June to September things took a spectacular turn for the worse.
Nikola founder Trevor Milton – whose personal worth had reportedly rocketed to $US9billion in June – has now quit his role as executive chairman amidst allegations of fraudulent claims, and investigations launched by US financial regulators.

The company’s rise saw both IVECO owner CNH Industrial and General Motors buy a stake in Nikola, alongside an impressive stockmarket launch that saw its market value hit $US26.3billion – more than that of the Ford Motor Company!

The setbacks began when a stockmarket “short seller,” Hindenburg Research, went public with a sensational claim that the startup was “an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies.”

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For months everything seemed to be on the up and up for Nikola, the US electric truck startup that looked to be racing ahead of the much-more-famous Tesla.
And then, suddenly, from June to September things took a spectacular turn for the worse.
Nikola founder Trevor Milton – whose personal worth had reportedly rocketed to $US9billion in June – has now quit his role as executive chairman amidst allegations of fraudulent claims, and investigations launched by US financial regulators.
The company’s rise saw both IVECO owner CNH Industrial and General Motors buy a stake in Nikola, alongside an impressive stockmarket launch that saw its market value hit $US26.3billion – more than that of the Ford Motor Company!
The setbacks began when a stockmarket “short seller,” Hindenburg Research, went public with a sensational claim that the startup was “an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies.”
A Nikola statement denied many of the claims, explained others...and dismissed the attack as a bid to “negatively manipulate the market to financially benefit short sellers” – including Hindenburg itself. Milton himself termed it “a hit job.”
But the criticism revived earlier allegations that Milton had claimed at the 2016 unveiling of the Nikola One tractor unit that it was drivable…while insiders said it was inoperable and missed key components needed to power itself.
Milton explained the claims away, saying that key parts had been removed from the prototype for safety reasons.
The Hindenburg report also alleged that in a video of a 2017 Nikola One tractor unit moving along a desert road – apparently shot for another company’s tv commercial – the truck was not moving under its own power…..
It was actually rolling down a stretch of Arizona highway thanks only to its almost imperceptible gentle downhill gradient….certainly so slight it’s not detectable in the video.
Nikola didn’t deny it – responding only that: “It was never described as ‘under its own propulsion’ or ‘powertrain driven.’  ”
Nikola’s share price plummeted by 30% in the wake of the controversial claims.
And two weeks later Milton stepped back from his lead role in the company, saying in a statement: “Nikola is truly in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me.
“So, I made the difficult decision to approach the board and step aside.”
Nikola shares rose 20% in the wake of Milton’s resignation and a company statement reiterating its commitment to its original strategy and vision “to deliver innovative technology, energy and transportation solutions.”
The statement says Nikola is “an innovator and integrator…..laser-focused on pursuing the quickest, least capital-intensive path to market, in combination with our own intellectual property. 
“If our partners have a less expensive, more efficient solution that works with and in our designs, we very intentionally want to go with that. This is in the best interest of our company and our shareholders – and, simply put, is the smart business decision. 
“In line with our strategy, Nikola will continue to partner with world-class companies that will enable us to save billions of dollars and years in development.”
It expects that the first batch of five Nikola Tre battery electric trucks for the European market  will be completed within a few weeks and says it still aims to begin production of the tractor unit before the end of next year.
And it expects to begin testing prototypes of its hydrogen fuel cell powered tractor units for the US market by the end of 2021.  

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