Nikola Corporation founder Milton leaves company

Girsky is chairman as official probes into accusations continue

Nikola Corporation founder Milton leaves company
Trevor Milton


With his firm beset by fraud allegations and subject to official probes, Nikola Corporation executive chairman Trevor Milton has resigned six years after founding it.

The move comes just two weeks after General Motors said it would take a US$2 billion (A$2.77 billion) 11 per cent stake in the electric vehicle and hydrogen power operation, primarily on the basis of its Badger pickup truck concept.

It also comes just more than a year after Iveco-parent CNHI agreed to build the Nikola Tre cabover in Europe.

Former GM vice chairman and present Nikola board member Stephen Girsky – who also leads the consultancy and partner VectoIQ Acquisition Corporation, which merged with Nikola in a deal that led to its stock exchange listing – is now chairman.

Much of the heat, which now reportedly includes US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice investigations, centres on Nikola’s claims for its hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial trucks.

They stem from accusations by short-seller Hindenburg Research which states in a "forensic report" on September 12 that Nikola’s claims on how advanced the trucks and fuel-cell power sources were at the time they were made were "false and misleading".

These have been followed by international business media examinations that also appear to cast doubt on some of the Nikola claims, though Nikola insists some of the criticism – including that video of a truck was taken at it glided down a slope rather than moved under its own power – are in themselves misrepresentations or otherwise explicable.

GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra publically stated after the Hindenberg report lobbed that her firm’s due diligence on Nikola had been "appropriate". 

Hindeberg says Milton's standing down is an effective vindication of its position.

Read about General Motors’ investment in Nikola, here

On bowing out, Milton pays homage to his firm and expresses confidence in Girsky.

"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," he says.

"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 honour."

"As we move forward, I am confident Steve is the right leader to guide our vision at the board level.

In addition to being an early believer and supporter of Nikola, Steve has more than 30 years of experience working with OEM leaders, suppliers, dealers, labour leaders and national policy makers, and has served as a director of numerous public companies."

Though the most impactful, this is not Nikola’s first brush with controversy. It continues to be in a US$2 billion legal fight with Tesla over cab-design patents, including for side doors, that Nikola claims belong to it.

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