Nikola Corporation today issued a press statement commenting on a report published September 10 by Hindenburg Research, a short seller that accuses Nikola of fraud in its portrayal of its battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
In the statement, Nikola asserted that the “opportunistic timing of the report” was designed to provide a false impression to investors and to “negatively manipulate the market to financially benefit short sellers, including Hindenburg itself.”
Nikola, which went public this June with a $26.3 billion evaluation, saw a more than 30% plunge in its stock price after the Hindenburg report. Nikola announced an agreement last week with General Motors in which GM will produce its Badger battery-electric pickup. Nikola said it is cooperating with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on these issues.
Regarding the specific Hindenburg accusations:
Nikola addressed development of the Nikola Tre battery-electric semi, created in collaboration with IVECO through a joint venture established in 2019 for the short-haul trucking sector.
The Hindenburg report cites a July 2020 podcast in which Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton said five of the trucks were “coming off the assembly line right now in Ulm Germany,” though a spokesperson for Bosch, the manufacturing partner building the trucks, confirmed this month that “they haven’t made any trucks yet,” according to Hindenburg.
Nikola said it still expects the Nikola Tre semi-truck to be ready for production and available to customers by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Bosch responded with a statement of its own: “Specific instances in the [Hindenburg] report quoting a Bosch employee were taken out of context” and “The employee spoke only about Bosch’s own plans for the IAA industry show and H2Haul project for the European Union.”
Nikola stated that the five trucks are currently being built and commissioned in Ulm, Germany, and are pre-production builds.
The Hindenburg report analyzes a video in which Milton claims that Nikola has developed proprietary inverter tech. The video shows an inverter with tape on it, which it claims hides the specs for an off-the-shelf inverter.
“At no time did Nikola state that the inverter on the prototype truck shown in the video was the Company’s or would be used in production,” Nikola responded.
“Nikola has been designing, engineering and working on its own inverters for quite some time. The Company does use third-party parts in prototype vehicles, some of which may be subsequently swapped out for its own parts in production. This is common practice among vehicle manufacturers and Nikola often blocks supplier names from the view of media and competitors.”
The Hindenburg report takes Nikola to task for overstating agreements with Anheuser Busch and Republic Services, when in fact those companies are not obligated to purchase any vehicles.
Nikola did not respond to the contracts themselves but stated that the Nikola Two hydrogen-electric powered semi-truck is expected to have a prototype delivered by the end of 2021 and a production version in the second half of 2023.
Nikola said the gearbox, batteries, inverters, suspension, brakes, steering, and other systems were all functional. However, Nikola said it decided to switch to development of Nikola Two, and that prototypes for the Two are self-propelled and have been “frequently demonstrated.”
Nikola does not dispute one of the report’s most explosive claims — that the Nikola One was in fact not driving under its own propulsion in the 2017 “Future of Transportation” video, filmed for a Phillips commercial.
Nikola said, “It was never described as ‘under its own propulsion’ or ‘powertrain driven.’”
Nikola said investors at the time “knew the technical capability of the Nikola One” at the time of their investment. “The fact is, Nikola has real working hydrogen fuel-cell powered semi-trucks,” according to the statement.