- Trevor Milton, Nikola Motors' founder and executive chairman, resigned his position in the company Monday after requesting departure. Milton's departure comes after a Tuesday report by Hindenburg Research, a firm with short positions in Nikola's stock, alleged Milton exaggerated the capabilities of the OEM's trucks.
- Stephen Girsky, the former vice chairman of GM and a member of Nikola’s board, has been appointed board chairman, Nikola said on Monday. Mark Russell will continue as CEO.
- Milton founded the zero-emissions OEM in 2014, and grew the business into a publicly traded firm with contracts with GM. But after Hindenburg's report, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the SEC is looking into Milton and Nikola. The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that the Department of Justice is also investigating.
Milton and Nikola attacked Hindenburg Research's report as it came out of the gate. But it has had massive and quick impact upon Nikola, just as it moved forward with GM on a pickup truck model and other joint ventures.
The report was detailed in its charges and conclusions. One Hindenburg claim said Nikola did not have a working model, and rolled a truck down an extended incline for a promotional video. Another claim was that Nikola relied on outsourcing technology it suggested was in-house innovation.
"I asked the Board of Directors to let me step aside from my roles," Milton said in a Twitter post Monday. "The focus should be on the Company ... not me. I intend to defend myself against false allegations leveled against me by outside detractors."
Along with Tesla, Nikola is a rare OEM new to the truck-making game. Nikola said it was ready to compete with the big truck makers, such as Daimler Trucks, with fuel-cell electric vehicles. But as the company grew, critics always went back to one aspect of the business: The company has not yet rolled one truck off the assembly line for the market.
Milton responded by saying the company was in development and would produce Class 8 trucks in 2022. As Milton showed off FCEV models at truck shows, he was making deals to expand the company and get it ready for production. In March, Nikola was able to back into a publicly traded acquisition firm, VectoIQ, to create a company focused on the development of zero-emission trucks. The new company traded on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol "NKLA."
Then, on Sept. 8, Nikola made news with its GM partnership, which the companies said would save Nikola billions of dollars in factory construction, according to a joint news conference. The partnership would aid Nikola's Class 8 and Class 7 manufacturing, the companies said, and would potentially speed up production of Nikola's fuel-cell electric trucks and battery-electric trucks.
Milton said his company continues to build its factory for Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in the Phoenix area, with help from the GM partnership.