PHOENIX — Nikola Corporation is rebuking claims alleging that the company, and its founder, have made untrue statements about its products over the company’s life cycle.
The accusations made up the bulk of a report published by short-selling firm Hindenburg Research.
The firm, which describes itself as specializing in “forensic financial research,” published a report on Thursday entitled, “Nikola: How to parlay an ocean of lies into a partnership with the largest auto OEM in America.”
In it, Hindenburg described Nikola as an “intricate fraud” and lobbed a number of allegations at the hydrogen electric and electric vehicle manufacturer, including that the company’s prototype of the Nikola One semi-truck was a pusher, or not able to drive on its own.
The report was published just days after the announcement of a strategic partnership with General Motors to manufacture the Nikola Badger — Nikola’s fuel cell and electric pickup truck.
Nikola issued a press release on Monday calling the report “false and defamatory” and alleging that Hindenburg Research was “financially motivated” to manipulate the market and profit from a dramatic drop in Nikola’s stock price.
The fact is not one Hindbenburg denies. Included in the report is a disclosure identifying the firm as short share owners of Nikola’s stock and notifying readers that Hindenburg Research “stands to realize significant gains in the event that the price of any stock covered herein declines.”
Nikola is facing a probe from the US Securities and Exchange Commission over a Hindenburg’s claims, Reuters reported Monday.
“On September 11, Nikola’s legal counsel proactively contacted and briefed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding Nikola’s concerns pertaining to the Hindenburg report. Nikola welcomes the SEC’s involvement in this matter,” a spokesperson for the company told Business Insider.
Though Nikola zeroed in on a number of statements included within the report that the company described as “false and misleading,” the company did not deny that a 2017 video of the Nikola One prototype was staged.
The footage in question, a promotional video for the Nikola One, claims to show the prototype “in motion.”
According to Hindenburg’s report, the truck was not fully functional. Hindenburg alleges a Nikola employee’s text messages show that the truck was towed to the top of a low-grade hill on the Mormon Trail in Utah and allowed to roll downhill. The information was allegedly told to the employee by Nikola Chief Engineer Kevin Lynk.
In the company’s issued statement on the report, Nikola proclaims that the short seller attempts to portray the company as “misrepresenting the capabilities” of the prototype — stating that the company never said its truck was “driving under its own propulsion in the video.”
Nikola also indicated that at the time the company was still privately owned and that, during that period, investors were aware of the technical capabilities of the prototype.
Hindenburg, however, alleges that in a 2016 presentation — well over one year before the “in motion” video was released — Nikola’s founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton made several comments indicating that the truck was “fully functional” and was not a pusher.
This is not the first time Nikola has been called out for its claims regarding the capabilities of the Nikola One.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News published a piece indicating the truck was not drivable at the time of the presentation and that key components were missing, despite Milton’s statements. The article quotes Milton as reportedly saying there wasn’t a fuel cell aboard the truck and that the company never said there was.
Following the article’s publication, Milton vowed on Twitter to file a defamation lawsuit against Bloomberg and refuted its claims that components of the vehicle were missing — stating that the missing parts in question were on a table available for the audience to see “in-person.”
In the press release, Nikola maintained that the Nikola One is a “real truck” that is currently housed in the company’s showroom and that it was designed to operate on its own propulsion, citing that the “gearbox, batteries, inverters, power steering, suspension, infotainment, air disc brakes, high voltage and air systems were all functional.”
Hindenburg’s report also suggested that during the December 2016 reveal of the Nikola One, a cable was snaked below the stage and into the floor of the truck’s cab to power the display screens inside the vehicle’s cabin.
The response Nikola issued on Monday did not include any comment regarding Hindenburg’s accusation regarding the completion of the Nikola One at the time of the reveal, but the company did say that it later changed its strategy and decided not to progress any further in “the process to make the Nikola One drive on its own propulsion.”
The company went on to create other prototypes for the Nikola Two — its second-generation semi-truck. Nikola claims the Nikola Two prototypes are self-propelled, which they said has been showcased frequently.
Other accusations lodged in Hindenburg’s report included that Milton continued to publicly tout a battery technology created by a company Nikola intended to acquire despite reportedly learning of the false claims made by the battery tech developer Zapgo Ltd.; that Nikola scrapped the design of its NZT off-road vehicle weeks after unveiling it at the 2019 Nikola World showcase; and that Nikola falsely claimed to make all its inverters in-house despite a video that suggests the company bought inverters from a third-party supplier — allegations which Nikola characterized as misrepresentations or inaccurate.
The vehicle manufacturer, however, did not respond to other allegations made by Hindenburg including that Nikola falsely claimed to have already lowered the cost of hydrogen production by over 81%.
According to MarketWatch, Nikola’s stock dropped 40.1% in the days after the report’s release. As of press time on Monday, however, the stock trended up 11.39%