Nikola Motors and its founder, Trevor Milton, are scrambling to save face after a research report exposed years of deception. This follows their new deal with GM, who doesn’t seem very concerned about their new partners’ past deception.
If you have been following our coverage of Nikola Motors, you know that we have been highly skeptical of the company for some time
From the patent trolling lawsuit against Tesla to dubious claims of battery breakthroughs, the company had very little to no credibility to us.
In 2017, Trevor Milton invited me to test out their electric UTV, and I was impressed by the prototype, though the powertrain was mostly built by Bosch.
However, my view of the company started to deteriorate after that event as Milton decided to hit Tesla with a $2 billion lawsuit over dubious allegations that they copied the Nikola One truck design for Tesla Semi.
After reading the entire lawsuit, I called Milton and told him that I thought the whole thing amounted to patent trolling, and that I can’t take Nikola seriously if they start engaging in patent trolling activities.
Things started going downhill from there.
Nikola started missing deadlines to bring its vehicles to production, and yet they kept unveiling more prototypes and announcing deals with investors and trucking companies placing reservations, like Anheuser-Busch.
An engineer who I was able to confirm worked on the first prototype of Nikola’s hydrogen/electric truck said:
I was alarmed to hear lies flowing like water from Trevor as he toured the floor with investors and politicians.
He claimed that Milton would have a constant stream of possible partners and investors come in, and he would exaggerate the capability of the truck, the extent of the work done by Nikola, and even what technology they owned versus what was bought off the shelves.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Milton lied when he claimed that the Nikola One he unveiled on stage was a functional truck.
It was in fact a “pusher prototype” that was completely not operational, despite Milton specifically claiming on stage that it “wasn’t a pusher.”
The same engineer who worked on the truck told Electrek that it indeed wasn’t functional on the night of the event or even months after the event.
Now a new report from Hindenburg Research came out this week with even more evidence of Milton and Nikola’s deception.
To be fair, Hidenburg has a short position on Nikola’s stock (NKLA), but they do bring some clear evidence of some deceptive behavior by the company.
Among the dozen of claims in the report, some of the more damaging ones include an allegation that the first video of Nikola’s truck actually driving was the result of towing the truck up a hill and pushing it down.
It is backed by text messages from an employee of the company at the time and Hindenburg finding the actual location of the filming.
Another claims involves a pattern of claiming they delveoped and or own some piece of technology that was actually just bought off the shelves.
Hindenburg gives the example of Milton claiming that they developed their own inverter and released a video of it, but they were able to figure out that it was a Cascadia inverter, and Nikola simply put masking tape over their logo:
This pattern is especially interesting following the deal that was announced with GM, where Nikola would use the automaker’s battery and fuel cell technology in Nikola’s Badger electric pickup truck and future vehicles.
That’s despite the fact that Nikola has been claiming for years that they are developping their own battery pack technology.
Milton last night claimed that he was preparing a rebuttal of the claims made by Hindenburg:
He even added that only cowards run for a fight, but he just now announced that he won’t be commenting further and instead decided to lawyer up:
When we made GM aware of the situation that they just got themselves into by partnering with Nikola, they didn’t seem too concerned:
We are fully confident in the value we will create by working together. We stand by the statements we made in announcing the relationship.
As part of their deal to be the manufacturing partner for the Nikola Badger, GM acquired around 11% of Nikola Motors. The stock has lost over $1B in value since opening this morning.
Like I said earlier on Twitter, this is the beginning of the end for Nikola:
If the Hindenburg report wasn’t accurate, the claims would be very easy to debunk.
The biggest one is of course faking the drive video.
They simply have to release an unedited version of the video that shows the truck driving under its own power instead of rolling downhill.
If they are not doing that, it is probably because they can’t do it.
Also, as for some of the other claims in the report, like the Cascadia inverter, there doesn’t seem to be any denying of that.
Trevor got exposed.
That’s not surprising to me. But what is surprising is that he managed to rope GM into this. Come on, GM. How could you fall for that?
All the signs were there already, and they have the resources to do 10 times the due diligence that Hindenburg did before taking their small short position.
GM did none of that before taking a 11% stake in the company?
The way I see it, GM is too concerned about staying relevant in the EV space after dropping the ball so many times (EV1 and 5-year dry spell after Bolt EV) that they didn’t look too close to that deal.
I hope a few heads will roll at GM over this fiasco, and it will re-energize them to take EVs more seriously.
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Author: Fred Lambert