Just days after GM partnership, short-seller report shocked investors
Founder Milton to step down to keep focus on cars, not him
It didn’t take long after General Motors’ announcement that it would be partnering with upstart EV builder Nikola for the critics to start piling up claims and evidence that Nikola maybe wasn’t exactly what was claimed. Now, as the company faces those allegations and an SEC probe, the company’s charismatic founder has stepped down as chairman of the company, handing the reins over to another board member and former vice chair at GM.
Trevor Milton said that “Nikola is truly in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me,” in a statement reported by Automotive News Europe. “So, I made the difficult decision to approach the board and step aside.”
Just days after GM announced it would be taking a $2b stake in Nikola though services rendered and engineering and building the Nikola Badger, the company’s electric pickup, short-seller Hinderburg Research questioned many of Nikola’s EV tech claims, calling it “an intricate fraud.”
Milton called the claims a “hit job” on Twitter, and initially said that the company would reserve replies for the courtroom. Subsequent tweets attempted to respond to what Milton called false claims, but failed to address concerns raised.
Bold claims and missed deadlines are nothing new in the burgeoning electric vehicle scene, and really they’ve been a common part of the boutique and bespoke supercar industry for years as well. But EVs are big business on the stock market, and Nikola once saw a stock surge that made the company more valuable than Ford.
Taking Milton’s place is Steve Girsky, managing partner of VectoIQ, a company that was part of Nikola’s going public on the stock market. He served at GM from November 2009 to 2014, helping the company to work through and then out of that automaker’s bankruptcy.