The SEC is reportedly looking into Nikola's electric truck promises

Nikola's defense: It never said the One prototype was 'under its own propulsion.'

Massimo Pinca / reuters

Nikola is defending itself against claims that its plans to build electric big rigs are an “intricate fraud.” The charges came a few days ago in a report published by short-selling firm Hindenburg Research, which accused the publicly traded company’s CEO Trevor Milton of making “dozens of false statements.” On Monday evening, Bloomberg reported that the SEC is looking into the merits of that report, sending its stock price down.

GM recently announced a plan to invest $2 billion in Nikola, just days before the report surfaced, which includes a claim that video of its Nikola One prototype in motion was faked, with the truck towed up a hill to let gravity help it roll down. In Nikola’s response to “set the record straight,” it claims that elements of its Nikola One proof of concept were functional, including the batteries, gearbox and inverters, but admits it never did the work to make that model capable of driving under its own propulsion.

As far as charges that the video showing it rolling was faked, Nikola offers this as the best rebuttal it can muster: “Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video, although the truck was designed to do just that (as described in previous point). The truck was showcased and filmed by a third party for a commercial. Nikola described this third-party video on the Company’s social media as “In Motion.” It was never described as “under its own propulsion” or “powertrain driven.”

In Nikola’s statement, the company said it plans to cooperate with the SEC on its inquiry, and claimed it has already contacted and briefed the agency. So who’s lying? Nikola claims investors knew what its prototypes were and were not capable of, and is focusing on newer machines that it says can actually move under their own power. However, check out the original Nikola One video that’s still available on YouTube (titled “Nikola One Electric Semi Truck in Motion”) and make your own decision about whether or not that implied the truck was capable of moving on its own.