Trevor Milton Steps Down From Nikola, Stock Sinks [UPDATED]

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

It’s been a wild ride for Nikola, from being highly valuedperhaps overvalued – by Wall Street, to partnering with GM, to being accused of fraud, to founder Trevor Milton voluntarily stepping down today.

Milton, who was hailed as the next Elon Musk not long ago, is stepping aside less than two weeks after Hindenburg Research, a short-selling firm, published a long article/blog post accusing Nikola of fraud. Milton and Nikola pushed back, saying the report contained inaccuracies, but Milton is resigning as executive chairman and giving up his spot on the board anyway.

The board has accepted his resignation.

Nikola stock slipped 30 percent in pre-market trading. As I write this, around 9 am CST Monday, it’s down about 16 percent.

Ed. note: GM sent over a statement shortly after we published. It’s at the end of this post.

Stephen Girksy, a former vice chairman for GM who is on Nikola’s board, is now chairman of the board, effective immediately.

“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. “So I made the difficult decision to approach the Board and volunteer to step aside as Executive Chairman. Founding Nikola and growing it into a company that will change transportation for the better and help protect our world’s climate has been an incredible honor.”

He also tweeted out a statement that included a line in which he declared his intent to defend himself against the allegations. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice are reportedly investigating claims about Nikola misleading investors.

GM, of course, recently promised to help hydrogen fuel-cell truck, the Badger, and took a stake of 11 percent in Nikola. GM CEO Mary Barra has said the company did its due diligence, but the accusations of fraud, the reported investigations, and Milton stepping aside will nonetheless raise questions about GM’s vetting process.

Nikola’s stock went from $13 in the spring to $93.99 in June, before falling to $34.19 on Friday.

Nikola CEO Mark Russell put out this statement: “Our priorities remain unchanged and, in collaboration with our partners, we are laser-focused on executing on our strategic initiatives and laying the groundwork to become a vertically integrated zero-emissions transportation solutions provider,” Russell said.

Update: GM has responded. Statement: “We acknowledge Trevor Milton’s departure from Nikola and the decision of the Nikola Board to move forward. We will work with Nikola to close the transaction we announced nearly two weeks ago to seize the growth opportunities in broader markets with our Hydrotec fuel cell and Ultium battery systems, and to engineer and build the Nikola Badger. Nikola, Honda and other companies who are looking to GM’s technology as a platform for their products, represent just one part of our overall EV strategy. Our overall goal is to put everyone in an EV and accelerate adoption.”

[Image: Nikola]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Aja8888 Aja8888 on Sep 21, 2020

    It would not surprise me if Mary Berra is shown the door at the next Board meeting.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 29, 2020

    If you cruise over to Elektrek, you can see the Tesla fanboiz crowing over this. They should be careful what they wish for in terms of enthusiastic enforcement. Milton may well have stretched the truth to the point of fraud. But Musk's "full self driving computer" and promise of a fleet of autonomous robotaxis seem to me like they're doing the same thing. People are paying $6000 for this computer on the insinuation that it does more than it currently can, and the promise that it will eventually do more than it likely ever will (i.e., be government-approved for fully autonomous use despite lacking lidar and maps, and generate passive income for the owner by letting them use their car as a robotaxi). I wish Tesla well, and maybe this is sincere wishful thinking on their part and not something worse, but...oof.

  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
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