Earlier today, it was announced that former Nikola Motor CEO Trevor Milton had been indicted on three counts of fraud by U.S. prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) following comments and claims he made regarding the automaker he used to run. Through the years, Milton has gone from fictional to fraudulent, never bringing a truly functional product to the market or to demonstrations for that matter, and allegedly lying to investors along the way.
Established in 2014 by Milton, Nikola worked toward revolutionary new battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell automotive powertrains for commercial and passenger vehicles. The beginning of the company’s somewhat inevitable fall was marked by the release of a shocking report from Hindenburg Research that claimed the company’s first vehicle demonstration of the Nikola One semi-truck was misleading, claiming the vehicle was not self-propelled. Nikola initially denied this but then admitted the vehicle was placed on a low-grade hill to appear to be functional. The company was not willing to put any more money into a prototype.
However, Nikola’s long journey, which has culminated in the arrest of Milton with charges to be formally announced later today, started long before Hindenburg’s report.
- 2009 – Trevor Milton launches dHybrid after selling an alarm sales company for $300,000. dHybrid entered a contract with Swift, a major transportation company in the heavy trucking sector. Swift agreed to convert up to 800 trucks, securing a $16 million contract for dHybrid shortly after its establishment.
- Swift would later sue dHybrid, claiming the company’s truck did not work and some company executives “misappropriated capital for personal use,” according to the Hindenburg report.
- Hindenburg also claims that Milton reached out to dHybrid investors, claiming the contract with Swift was valued at $250 million – $300 million.
- 2014 – dHybrid acquired by Worthington for $15.9 million.
- 2016 – Nikola announces it will unveil the Nikola One electric semi, claiming that it will be fully functional at the December 1st event. Nikola claimed to have “The Holy Grail” of hydrogen tech for trucking just months before the event.
- 2017 – Nikola signs a deal with Powercell AB, a Swedish company, to supply hydrogen fuel cell stacks. Nikola also signed with Bosch, who agreed to help assist in the production of Nikola Two prototypes.
- 2018 – Nikola begins to market the Nikola One as the “largest energy consumer” in America. Targeting the Tesla Semi, Nikola filed a $2 billion lawsuit against Tesla, alleging that Tesla violated a design patent of the Nikola One. Several elements, including the wraparound windshield, mid-entry door, front fenders, and the electric truck’s aerodynamic body, were all claimed by Nikola to be taken by Tesla.
- Nikola said in November that it had refunded all 11,550 deposits for its vehicles. It did this to show that it was not operating on customer’s money
- 2019 – Nikola World event shows five zero-emission vehicles that will eventually produce and release. The company announced a partnership with Anheuser-Busch, who ordered 800 trucks from Nikola.
- Nikola offers Tesla a new design for its Cybertruck. Milton extends the pickup truck design to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, giving it to him as a “backup plan” if Cybertruck pre-orders were unsuccessful. Tesla has received over 1 million pre-orders for the Cybertruck since November 2019.
- 2020 – Nikola and GM come to a partnership to see GM handle fuel cell and battery systems in early September. The deal gives GM a $2 billion equity stake.
- Hindenburg releases its report on Nikola called, “Nikola — How to Parlay an Ocean of Lies into a Partnership with the Largest Auto OEM in America.” The report claims Nikola is “an intricate fraud” by gathering phone calls, emails, text messages, photographs, and other pieces of evidence that claim the company has been misleading shareholders. Hindenburg claims they’ve “never seen this level deception at a public company, especially of this size.”
- Nikola admits that the Nikola One was not self-propelled.
- Nikola CEO Trevor Milton steps down from his post at the helm of the company. “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. Stephen Girsky became the new Chairman of the Board.
- Nikola plans the next “Nikola World” event, but it is postponed as uncertainty due to its lack of executive leadership continues.
- GM reconsiders its partnership and eventually cuts back the terms of its conglomeration. NKLA stock falls 24% as GM partially backs out of the deal.
- 2021 – Nikola files a 10-K filing with the SEC following its Q4 2020 Earnings Report and admits its former frontman Milton misled shareholders by lying. The company said that several statements made by Milton were “inaccurate in whole or in part when made.”
- Today, July 29th – Trevor Milton surrenders to federal authorities on three counts of fraud for lying about “nearly all aspects” of Nikola’s business. Milton is required to forfeit all properties that are traceable to the commission of his offenses.
Milton will be presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at 11 am EST today.