Accused of Lying Itself into the Industry, Nikola Makes Some More Promises

Nikola Badger 1 photo
Photo: Nikola
Of all the startups trying to make a fortune and a living from producing cars, Nikola surely had it the worst. The company was founded in 2014, and in no time (2018) it was in court, battling Tesla over patents. It then went after some Tesla employees, and continued to exchange a few more salvos with Musk’s company, while at the same time making tons and tons of promises about a bright future, mostly in the upcoming electric semi truck segment.
In this segment we’ve had the One, Two, and later on the Tre. All three trucks are yet to actually meet the tarmac of a road. Then, sometime not long ago, Nikola stepped outside its comfort zone and announced the Badger, an electric pickup powered by either battery packs or fuel cells.

It was the Badger that somehow caught the eye of GM’s execs, who no later than last week announced a partnership with Nikola. In short, GM would build the Badger with Ultium batteries and other tech it owns, in exchange for 11 percent ownership of Nikola and right to nominate one director.

About four days ago, the so-called Hindenburg Research popped up on the Internet. Put together by one of Nikola’s minor shareholders, the document (available here, but we warn you, it’s pretty long) claims to prove, with “extensive evidence—including recorded phone calls, text messages, private emails and behind-the-scenes photographs,” that Nikola and its CEO, Trevor Milton, lied through their teeth all along, and even staged demos of the tech the company was working on (video attached below).

In short, the research claims everything Nikola said is largely untrue, and was all done with the sole purpose of using the tech developed by others (GM, Powercell AB, and others) to essentially get rich.

As soon as the report was published, Nikola stepped front and center and denied the allegations, saying it is all an attack by a short seller to bring the stock down and make a profit.

On Monday, September 14, after it became clear the problems are not going away, Nikola released a new statement, making some more promises about the immediate future.

The first thing the company said is that production of the Tre (battery electric) is set to begin together with Iveco in the fourth quarter of 2021. The same year testing for the Two (hydrogen-powered) is scheduled to begin and, although there is already an order for 800 trucks from Anheuser Busch LLC, production of the Two will not begin until 2021. The Badger on the other hand, as announced last week together with GM, is set to arrive on the market no sooner than 2022.

That sounds great, and throwing in a bunch of names like Iveco and GM in the mix is sure to help with Nikola’s credibility issues. Also, we do have a huge order of 2,500 Nikola electric refuse trucks made by America’s second-largest provider of recycling and solid waste collection, Republic Services.

But that too is something that will happen sometime in the future - trucks would begin moving on the road in early 2022, and production should kick off shortly after, with deliveries expected in 2023.

Nikola is used to making such promises for years now, with no actual product in sight, Only time will tell if the Hindenburg Research is right or is just an attack from a greedy investor, but one thing is certain: unlike the previous years, when Nikola was alone in this, this time other major names in the industry are involved. And if it turns out to be true – although, this is ultimately just a he-said-she-said type of deal, so we’ll probably never know – things might get really messy.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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