Nikola Delays World Conference, GM Stalls Partnership

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Nikola Corp. has decided to reschedule the Nikola World conference that would have offered the public a look at its all-electric Badger pickup and an opportunity to see what else the company was cooking up. Under normal circumstances, we would all just fault COVID-19 and move on with our frustrating little lives. But the firm was recently accused of having misled investors on the true progress of its technology.

Those allegations were rebuffed by chairman and founder Trevor Milton… before he abruptly left the company and Nikola’s ludicrously high stock valuation pivoted in the wrong direction.

Interestingly, most of the blame seems to be staying with Milton. Nikola shares pitched up on Wednesday, despite the only major change being one more vacant office on the top floor. Meanwhile, CEO Mark Russell has been trying to get everyone stoked about Nikola World and all the amazing stuff that’s supposed to be there in December 2020. That included a view of the Badger pickup, which GM was supposed to build and the company has been taking preorders for since June.

Officially, Nikola is citing the always convenient pandemic-lockdown excuse as the main reason it cannot hold Nikola World 2020. While it could undoubtedly whip up a live stream before December, there has been no mention of an alternative strategy. The company seems adamant that the event should be open to the public or postponed until such an event can be held.

“Due to COVID-19 audience size restrictions at Arizona’s major venues, we have made the decision to reschedule an in-person Nikola World until we can bring the Nikola community together safely,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to provide progress updates across our entire product portfolio.”

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Image: Nikola

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While much of that was left up to the imagination, it did say that the first Nikola Tre battery-electric semi prototypes would be “substantially completed” in Germany within the next few weeks. A bit of an oxymoron but presumably better than nothing. Limited production is said to be on track by Q4 of 2021 while the company’s primary manufacturing facility in Coolidge, AZ, is supposed to finish construction by the summer of 2023.

Meanwhile, its planned partnership with General Motors has also been forestalled. The duo was supposed to finalize their deal on Wednesday but the Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday that GM had delayed signing. It’s assumed the automaker wants to renegotiate terms following the recent claims that Milton acted fraudulently. He has also been accused by two women of sexual assault before they turned 18.

Though it’s likely the money that has GM most worried. Back when it agreed to partner with Nikola, the firm was worth a cool $2 billion and had what everyone assumed was some of the most advanced battery and hydrogen tech in the industry. The company is now worth about half that and has left everyone wondering as to the legitimacy of some of the previewed equipment.

“Given how far Nikola’s equity has fallen, Milton leaving, and a fraud investigation, I can’t imagine GM is fine with the original terms of the deal anymore and I suspect they are looking for a lot more Nikola equity,” Morningstar’s David Whiston told the Free Press. “They may get it too because if GM walks away, then I believe that news would likely cause further mass selling off of Nikola’s stock.”

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Image: Nikola

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[Images: Nikola]

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