Head of EV startup Nikola steps down amid fraud allegations

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Nikola, a startup working on battery- and hydrogen-electric trucks, announced Sunday that its executive chairman and founder, Trevor Milton, has stepped down.

The company also named current board member and previous General Motors vice chairman Stephen Girsky as its new chairman, effective immediately.

The moves come just days after it was reported that both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission were probing Nikola over allegations of fraud brought up by investment company Hindenburg Research earlier in September.

Hindenburg Research, which called Nikola an “intricate fraud” in a report published Sept. 10, has gone as far as to claim Milton falsely claimed to have proprietary technology, and that the company used mockups in its promotional videos instead of functioning vehicles.

Nikola Badger

Milton owns 20% of Nikola whose share price at one point valued the company higher than Ford. This is despite Nikola never having delivered an actual product to a customer.

“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,” Milton said in a statement.

Nikola over the years has rolled out various vehicles including the Badger pickup truck; One, Two and Tre semi-trailer trucks; and NZT utility task vehicle.

But while the company has said it has built functioning trucks, it recently decided to turn to GM for the supply of key components. Under a deal announced Sept. 8 and scheduled to close Sept. 30, GM is to supply Nikola with batteries, fuel cells, engineering services, and even some production capacity (for the Badger pickup).

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Saurabh Shukla

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