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Sometimes things aren't what they seem, especially online. Back in 2018, zero-emissions vehicle company Nikola released a video of their "Nikola One Electric Semi Truck in Motion." It featured their famed Nikola One truck driving along a two-lane desert highway. It seemed that the future of the automotive industry was here.
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Fast forward to last week when short-selling investment firm Hindenburg Research published a report that claimed the Nikola One was nowhere near being functional at the time of the promotional video. "Today, we reveal why we believe Nikola is an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies over the course of its Founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton’s career," wrote the report.
Hindenburg claimed that the truck in the desert was actually just rolling downhill. Nikola had towed it up a mountain and cheated with the camera angle to make it seem like it was moving on its own.
How did Nikola respond to these wild claims? They released a press release entitled "Nikola Sets the Record Straight on False and Misleading Short Seller Report." The release goes through several of Hindenburg's statements nitpicking at what they possibly can, but in the end admits that the Nikola One was indeed not functional when they shot the promo video.
"As Nikola pivoted to the next generation of trucks, it ultimately decided not to invest additional resources into completing the process to make the Nikola One drive on its own propulsion," Nikola wrote. It added that the team focused instead on the Nikola Two.
The firm, however, defended the fact that it never claimed that the Nikola One truck was moving on its own in the first place. "Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video," Nikola wrote.
The firm also added that all investors knew what stage the truck was at. "Nikola investors who invested during this period, in which the company was privately held, knew the technical capability of the Nikola One at the time of their investment."
This is not the first time that rumors surfaced about the Nikola One's inoperability. Back in June 2020, Bloomberg reported that people familiar with the truck’s capability said it was missing key components to power itself.
What do you think about all this? Did Nikola set out to deceive its audience or was it just showcasing its latest futuristic vehicle?