Are Nikola’s electric semi trucks bullshit?

Nikola -- the electric truck company that is becoming the source of endless internet jokes -- is fighting charges of fraud. We pass our verdict based on the early evidence.

September 17, 2020

The financial forensics firm Hindenburg Research recently released a scathing 67-page report (and follow up) accusing the electric semi-truck unicorn Nikola Motor Company of being an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies.”

Here are a few of the greatest hits from the report, along with our verdict:

Strike #1: Nikola is super dependent on GM.

  • Explanation: Per a deal between the companies, GM will handle all engineering, validation, and manufacturing of Nikola’s Badger truck and fuel cells. In return, Nikola will pay GM a cool $700m, plus an 11% stake in the company.
  • Verdict: If a partner bailing means you can no longer create your product, did you ~really~ ever have a product? If so, we have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Strike #2: Its truck isn’t quite fully functional.

  • Explanation: In 2018, Nikola released a video supposedly showing a fully operational truck in motion. Turns out, it was just rolling down a hill.
  • Verdict: OK, so the car company… made a vehicle… that can’t actually move on its own? Sounds even less sophisticated than our soapbox derby car (funding: zero dollars).

Strike #3: The SEC and DOJ are on the company’s tail.

  • Explanation: Both government agencies are now said to be investigating Nikola for having “misled investors about its tech.”
  • Verdict: Getting accused of fraud online = your friends singing “oooh, you’re in trooouble.” Getting investigated by the SEC and DOJ in real life = your parents telling you to sit your ass down on the couch and start explaining.

Final Verdict: Book ‘em, Danno.

(To be thorough, Nikola’s shares actually rallied today after a JPMorgan analyst defended the EV firm).

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