Nikola Motors hasn’t had an easy life. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for the startup EV manufacturer after they secured a $2 billion investment from General Motors, only to have fraud claims disgrace the reputation of the company, and completely cut plans for their Badger electric pickup truck. Since then, Nikola Motors founder Trevor Milton was ousted from the company, although he still owns 22 percent of the company. And now, thanks to an internal review by a post-Milton Nikola covered by Bloomberg, we can confirm many claims by Milton or Nikola as a company were “inaccurate in whole or in part, when made.”
Specifically, the probe found nine key inaccuracies they accept responsibility for, a break from previous denials. Nikola Motors hasn’t made the entire report public, but different publications have gotten some of those nine points.
Bloomberg reports in 2016, the company falsely claimed their Nikola One hydrogen semi truck was a fully functioning model when in reality it couldn’t be driven at all. In fact, Nikola rolled the semi down a hill to get moving shots for a promotional video, when in reality it could never move under its own power. Also in 2016, Ars Technica reports Nikola falsely claimed they had rights to natural gas wells to fuel hydrogen production and later exaggerated their hydrogen production output in 2019 and 2020.
As possibly the biggest falsehood, both Bloomberg and Ars Technica report Nikola said untrue or exaggerated statements in July 2020 about the progress of their prototype vehicles, and that all of their components were made in house, which is false. This was just months before GM got involved.
But in this same probe, Nikola Motors fully denied the most prominent attack in the Hindenburg report on the company from fall 2020, which said Nikola as a whole was an, “intricate fraud.” The SEC is still looking into these claims of fraud.
This shows Nikola Motors is keen to move past the very real lies and falsehoods the company was promoting, which canceled much of the General Motors deal and the Badger electric pickup truck. It also means moving past ousted CEO Trevor Milton and setting Nikola up for a successful future, which looks like a stronger focus on hydrogen and electric semi trucks and possibly ORV. We wish them all the luck, but this story proves how difficult it is to be a startup automotive company, especially one with a tarnished reputation.