Nikola Motors Founder Trevor Milton Steps Down, Amid Ongoing Fraud Allegations

Electric startup Nikola Motors announced Monday that founder Trevor Milton would voluntarily step down from its board and his role as executive chairman. The move follows bombshell claims by Hindenburg Research calling claims surrounding its technology “an ocean of lies”. As it concurrently landed a $2 billion partnership deal with General Motors, the company now faced probes from the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange commission.

Effective immediately, ex-GM vice chairman and current Nikola board member Steve Girsky will take the helm.

“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 of his departure. “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.”

A roller coaster for Nikola Motors

Short-selling firm Hindenburg Research instigated scrutiny toward Nikola Motors in a September 10 report. They called it “Nikola: How to Parlay An Ocean of Lies Into A Partnership With The Largest Auto OEM in America”, referring to alleged false statements the startup made about its technology to land deals with automakers like General Motors. For its part, America’s largest manufacturer said it practiced due diligence in securing a multi-billion dollar deal with Nikola.

In its September 8 announcement, GM stated that Nikola would retain its branding on the Badger, a pickup it’s currently developing to take on the likes of the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T, among legacy manufacturers’ own efforts. In taking an 11 percent stake, GM said it will work with the company in further developing fuel cell and battery systems. It would also play a role in engineering and building the Badger.

Another point of contention surrounded promotion for the Nikola One semi. Hindenburg alleged the truck in the promotional video was not moving under its own power. In a later statement, the company more or less verified that claim. “Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video,” they announced through a statement.

Of course, the matter of Hindenburg’s comprehensive accusations have yet to be litigated. Milton said Monday that, “I intend to defend myself against false allegations leveled against me by outside detractors.”

Nikola Motors’ stock fell 20 percent in Monday morning trading upon the news of Milton’s departure. General Motors is also feeling the sting, as their share prices have fallen 6.5 percent at time of writing.

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